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Flexible seating is just that – FLEXIBLE! It has so many benefits for children.  A few years ago, I added flexible seating options in my classroom but the students still sat at tables, in chairs.  Two years ago, I made a VIP {Very Important People} table with balance balls.  My students were super motivated to get picked for the VIP table.  It worked really well but I wanted everyone to have that benefit.  So, last year, I took the plunge and got rid of my chairs.  I was super nervous and wasn’t sure how it would go, but decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.



Why Flexible Seating?
I don’t want to sit at a hard chair all day long.  It hurts my back and bottom.  I spend a lot of time in my classroom and want to be comfortable.  So, I thought I should extend that same choice to my students.
Not only is flexible seating comfortable, but it allows for choice.  Choice is extremely motivating and empowering.  Flexible seating helps build relationshipsand community because it allows for more collaborative work than desks and chairs.  I have found that it increases student engagement.

How to Begin
Decide on what types of seating you want.  Do you want a standing table?  Do you want a low table? Maybe you want no tables and all portable seating?



Here are the items I purchased:

Balance Balls 


  

  
Bean Bags   


These are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!
Once you have decided, determine if you can buy everything with your school budget.  I have no budget at school so I had to get a grant.  I wrote one on Donors Choose and was able to get most of my seating.  I also asked the PTO and the School Board for money.  I was able to get the rest of the seating and light covers with the money.
When all the seating arrived, the real planning began.

Before you switch to flexible seating, you need a plan.  How will students choose seating?  How often will they choose seats? What will happen if they don’t use it appropriately?  Where will they store their supplies?
I chose storage drawers because I thought it would take up less space and eliminate congestion.  I have seen people have shelving with book boxes to hold supplies, too.  I really like the drawers and am glad I went with them. If four students are at a table and there are only 3 drawers, students share a drawer.  We keep everything in folders so that was not an issue I my room. If you think it would be an issue for you, I’d suggest getting 4 drawer storage.
I decided that we would switch our seats once a week. During independent reading and math workshop, students could sit wherever they pleased.  When it came time to seat work, they would sit at their table unless they wanted a lap desk or portable lap desk. Any time there was collaborative work, students could move their seat in an area to work with their group. While this was my plan, it wasn’t set in stone.  I had two kiddos that wanted a chair.  I had some that really needed a certain seat and we made sure that happened.  I made sure I was accommodating to all the learners in my room.
I found my first graders to be very responsible with flexible seating.  We discussed {at length} what a privilege it was to have all these cool seating options and choice.  Students were very motivated and wanted to enjoy the seats.  They knew that if they didn’t follow all the school rules and work, they would lose the privilege.  I explained to my class that I have found that students can work harder, be comfortable and have some say in their learning and I expected them to make good choices for themselves.  I did let them know that if they made poor decisions, we would have to problem solve how to make it work.  If after three tries, they were still not able to do their best work or make good choices, they would lose the privilege of flexible seating.  I did not have ay students who lost the privilege last year.  Two got close, but that was this year.  Who knows what will happen this coming school year?

Why I Believe Flexible Seating Worked for Me
Flexible Seating is not for everyone.  You have to do what works for you.
Here are the reasons why I believe it worked for me:
1.     Students already move around the classroom all day long so this wasn’t a huge change for me.  We have two different carpet areas for whole group time and move around during literacy and math and science.  I already had tables in my room and students switched seats every 2-3 weeks prior to beginning flexible seating.
2.     Classroom management doesn’t stress me out.  I always have some students with behavioral challenges, like we all do, but I feel like I have a handle on it.  {FYI – This was not always the case.  I am a veteran teacher who just finished year 24 in the classroom.} Don’t feel bad if this is not the case for you.  I only pointed this out because I think it makes a difference.  If you think it will stress you out, it probably will. 
3.     I had the support of parents and administration. 
4.     I received funding for the seating.  This makes a huge difference!  I know some teachers who tried some cheaper options for seating on their own. When the seating broke or got ruined and needed to be replaced, they were frustrated.  I knew I would be, too, so I applied for grants.  I’d rather spend a little more money and be sure what we got was quality so it would last, but I couldn’t afford it.  Thank goodness for generous people who are willing to support our schools!  It has made all the difference!
5.     I had a plan.  I have seen flexible seating go bad when a solid plan is not in place.  You need to think out every single detail and decide what will work for you.
6.    I already had a “splash” of flexible seating in my classroom.  I put my toes in the water and liked it, so I decided to dive right in.

Should you try flexible seating? That is up to you! You have to decide what you value and what you can live with.  Maybe you start small like I did and test out the waters.  Maybe you are brave and just dive right in.  You can always go back to traditional seating.  It’s not the end all be all. Weigh out your choices and decide what is best for you.
I am glad I tried it out and was extremely pleased with the level of student engagement and motivation.  Maybe you will be too!



If you want to give it a try and need a pamphlet to explain it to parents, make sure you subscribe to my blog! I am sending out a free editable trifold on Saturday!




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It is summer and it is time to reflect and make decisions for next year. I just completed my 24th year of teaching.  A lot has changed since I began.  There are new, rigorous standards.  School shootings are becoming more common.  Parents and children seem less connected due to the increase in technology.  Atypical behaviors in the general education classroom are becoming more typical. 

What I believe has not changed.  I believe in teaching the whole child.  I think relationships are the most important part of teaching.  I know that children learn best and are willing to take risks when they feel cared for and loved.  Students need to feel like they belong to the classroom community.  I believe that no learning will take place if a child’s social emotional needs are met.  That is why I think that SEL {Social Emotional Learning} is imperative.




I refer to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning {CASEL}when I want to know about social emotional learning. 
The most current research shows that SEL is not only vital to students’ development, but also to their academic, social, personal, and professional success (J. L. Mahoney, J. A. Durlak, and R. P. Weissberg, 2018). CASEL cites that having high-quality SEL instruction improves student achievement scores by an average of 13 percentile points. Moreover, having a greater proficiency can result in students being more prepared for life as adults — from college and career success to better mental health and more engaged citizenship (R. Taylor, E Oberle, J Durlak, R Weissberg, 2017).
 This study also revealed a lack of SEL instruction consistently correlated with an increased chance of unemployment, criminal behavior, and  poor health.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) enhances students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges. Like many similar frameworks, CASEL’s integrated framework promotes intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive competence. There are five core competencies that can be taught in many ways across many settings.
The five competencies are:
1.          Self – awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.
2.        Self-management: The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself.
3.        Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
4.        Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.
5.        Responsible decision making: The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms.
How can you incorporate SEL into your day when they already have so much to teach?  
To me, this is an integral part of teaching. This can be weaved into everything you teach. All learning hits one of the five competencies.  Whether it’s persisting through an assignment, working with peers, asking for help, avoiding distractions instead ofjoining them, communication skills … the list goes on and on. 
If you are like me, you appreciate a curriculum to help you stay on track and make sure you cover it all. 
That is why I created Social Emotional Learning Curriculum.  It is easy to use, comprehensive, and covers all 5 SEL competencies.  Teaching about social skills and emotions in a safe caring classroom will help your students immensely.  They will learn how to sit with uncomfortable feelings and how to express them appropriately.   Negative, unproductive behaviors will decrease.  Your students will gain coping skills.  Their self esteem will grow and so much more.  It only takes  10-15 minutes a day and the benefits will last a lifetime.



I’ve just posted the first unit, Self Awareness, on Tpt.  This unit would fit in perfectly at the beginning of the year.  Students will learn how to be ready to learn, pay attention, be a good listener, avoid distractions and follow directions.  Then, they will learn about a growth mindset, the power of “yet” and positive self talk. Finally, they will learn about feelings.  You will teach about identifying emotions, recognizing them in others, express emotions appropriately and self-regulation.



The second unit will delve into self-management and go deeper into self regulation, mindfulness, respect, and goal setting. 
The third unit will teach all about empathy, compassion, perspective taking, kindness and courage.
Relationships will be the focus of the fourth unit.  Students will learn about communication, relationship building, teamwork, manners and friendship.
The final unit will dive into responsible decision making, ethical responsibility, leadership, problem solving and safety.


 The bundle is scheduled to be done by the end of August.  I’m offering this bundle at a deep discount now before all 5 units are up.  It will be $39.99 when it’s complete but now it is half off at $19.99.  The price will increase by $5.00 each time a new unit is uploaded. 
If you purchase the bundle before the morning of 6/6/19, it is discounted even more to the low price of $15.99.  Check it out here.



Happy teaching!
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Closing up the school year can be stressful.  Doing a few things several weeks in advance can help.  Here are five tips to help you maintain your sanity at the end of the year.

Note: It’s incredibly important to keep your classroom intact as much as possible until the very last days of the school year. It’s tempting to start removing items earlier, but keeping your room intact benefits students.  If you begin to shut down, your students will think it’s time to shut down.  Therefore, try to keep things as normal and routine as possible till the very end.







PURGE and ORGANIZE

I can’t stress enough how important purging is. If you haven’t used it, get rid of it.  You will not use it.  I promise you.  If you didn’t use it this school year, it will just collect dust.

Get rid of anything that doesn’t add value or joy to you or your students. Think like Marie Kondo.

Once you’ve purged, organize what’s left. Store items in clear bins so it’s easy to see what’s inside. Then, take inventory of the supplies you have left. This will help you during back to school sales.

Here are some of the bins I use.  These are all from my AmazonInfluencer page, so I do receive a small commission if you buy from them.








REFLECT
Spend tie reflecting on your year. What would you improve? What do you want to do again?  What do you want to add to?  I try to do this all year long by writing notes in my plan book.  Review your plan book and think about what went well and what didn’t.  Take notes to reflect on it during the summer or when you are planning.


Note: I take a break in the summer. I think that is very important.  But there are times when I think about school {usually a week or two after we get out and then right before we return}.




Plan and Prep for august
We get a half day at the end of the year to plan for the following school year.  I appreciate this time so much because it definitely decreases my stress and anxiety come back to school.  My team typically does this about a month  before school lets out.  I have found when we do it later, we are more focused on ending the year. If you do not get time from your district, I recommend you use some of your team planning time to do it.  It’s extremely helpful!

Once you plan, focus on the first two weeks. Print, copy, and prep everything you need. Have everything prepped because come August, you’re going to be swamped! If your work week is anything like ours, you will have a lot of meetings and spend time catching up with colleagues.  You don’t want to burn yourself out before school begins by staying late prepping everything. So - help yourself and do those types of tasks now.

I’m not an advocate for doing the same thing year after year. However, there are some activities, parent materials, and assessments that you reuse each year, especially those resources that help us learn more about your students. Get everything ready now! Place them in a storage container and label it so you remember where everything is.



Last week
Finish up tasks that you still need to complete. Then, get started on the last week of school list.  Enlist student’s help with as many of these tasks as you can.

During the last week of school:

·        Clean out cubbies and mailboxes.

·        Clean and organize supply bins.

·        Clean all flexible seating.

·        Clean materials such as whiteboards, bins, book boxes, laptops.

·        Sharpen any leftover pencils.

·        Clean and organize the classroom library. Look for books that are in need of repair or replacing.







On the last day of school:

·        Wipe down outsides and insides of tables/desks. We use shaving cream.  It really works at removing excess glue!

·        Have students help you move tables, stack chairs and cover shelving to eliminate dust collecting.



You’ll be amazing at how much you can accomplish by picking just one or two tasks to focus on per week. Come the last day of school, you’ll only need to take down what is left.



Follow these simple steps and I promise that you will have less stress and be prepared for the following year.  You may even thank me!




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Classroom transformations are such a powerful way to get our students excited about learning.  Glow Day is no exception to this!  Let me tell you all about this AMAZING day!










I wanted to create games that allowed my students review
important learning from the year. The students answered questions or completed activities that provided practice of first grade content. Each station had a glow game/activity.
You can go big or small when doing Glow Day.  I tried to stay cost effective and got a lot of donations. You really don't need anything other than the black lights, highlighters, glow tape, and glow sticks.  You can cover the windows with two layers of black paper or a black garbage bag if you don’t want to use a flannel backed table cloth.  I used two layers of black bulletin board paper that my school supplies so that was free =)






I also put black paper on my light covers to block out lights that are always on.  I made sure it hung down a bit so it was about 4 inches away from the bulbs.

I used two black lights, a disco light and a black light strip.  You can find them on my Glow Day Amazon List.  These are affiliate links but you don’t have to use them.  I use my  Amazon Influencer page to organize items that I buy regularly.


https://www.amazon.com/shop/ilove1stgrade?listId=4OASUN93BTGB


I used  about 300 glow sticks and 100 glow necklaces. Most of them were donated by parents from Dollar Tree.


Before "Glow Day," I sent a note home asking students to wear white or neon so they glowed, too.






Let's break down the stations we had at Glow Day:



We rotated through four centers in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. I had parent volunteer man these stations.  

Each rotation lasted 15-20 minutes including clean up and transitions.  However, the rotation time can be adjusted as needed.  




Glow Day Sight Words – This is a scoot activity where students found a sight word card with one letter missing.  They wrote the word with the missing letter on their recording sheets in highlighter.  I had various color highlighters but yellow glowed the best.  When they found all 30 words and wrote them correctly, they got to build the words they found with glow sticks.  These come editable in my Glow Day Bundle so you can choose which words you would like students to focus on.  You can also make it differentiated with the editable feature.





Glow Day Ring Toss – This is a projectable powerpoint where two teams battle each other practicing math facts.  There are switch slides where players must switch teams before answering a question to make the game more exciting.  Once someone calls out the correct answer, they get to through a glow ring around the bottles for points.  This is also editable so you can choose what facts you want students to practice.  You can make it math or literacy to individualize.




Glow Day Bowling – Students choose a card and read it out loud.  Then, they tell which punctuation mark goes at the end of the sentence.  If they are correct, they get to bowl.  You can differentiate by reading the sentence or creating your own sentences in the editable version.





Glow Day Jenga – Students pick a card and answer it.  If they are right, they must take out a block of the corresponding color to the card.  I put glow tape on the edges of my Jenga blocks to make it easier to see in the black light. This is also editable so you can differentiate cards or make your own.







Glow Day Geometry - This was a scoot activity where students found a card around the room.  They drew the shape on their recording sheets in highlighter.  Once they found all 16 cards and wrote them correctly, they got to build the shapes they found with glow sticks.  These come editable in my GlowDay Bundle so you can choose what skills you would like students to focus on.  You can also make it differentiated with the editable feature.








Glow Day Cards – I purchased glow in the dark cards where students played Top-it.  All you do is split the deck in half and give each player half.  They keep the cards upside down in a pile.  Then, each player turns over one card.  The player with the higher number keeps both cards.  If the cards are the same, they turn another card over.  The player with the most cards at the end, wins.


Glow Day Cup Stack – I bought glow in the dark cups for this fun STEM activity.  We measured our cup towers to see who built the tallest when the day was done.







Glow Day Tic Tac Toe – I made a tic tac toe boards out of glow tape.  Players used glow necklaces for the Os and two glow sticks for the Xs.  This strategy game is always a lot of fun.




Throughout the day, my first graders kept saying this was the best day ever.  They were perfectly behaved and engaged all day long!  This made the work I put into this day so worth it.

If you want to give Glow Day a try, check out my bundle.  It provides everything you need to have the best day EVER.  Like all of my new resources, it is on sale for the first 48 hours. It is $4.99 until Tuesday, 5/14/19 morning and then it will go to its regular price of $9.99.




If you have done Glow Day in your room, please comment below with your favorite part!  I can’t wait to hear from you!





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Spring is here and we all have spring fever! Energy levels are higher.  Students seem restless.  Behaviors that have never been seen before appear.  And your once quiet class becomes chatty.
Every year I remind myself that this is normal. And to be expected…
But that doesn’t mean we can’t remedy the situation.

In this blog post, I will share effective classroom management strategies for taming the talkative class.

Here is my golden rule when it comes to this:  Do not begin teaching until the class is quiet.  If you teach while students are talking, you are telling them that it is acceptable to talk. So …stop.  Wait. Don’t continue until they are ready to learn.  Do not worry about the time.  If they take your time, take theirs.  You will only have to do this once or twice and they will get the message.






1.Set clear expectations
Set clear expectations. Say something like, “For the next 5 minutes I am going to be explaining  ____.  I am going to expect you to be silent the whole time” or “Our goal right now is for everyone to be silent for the next ten minutes so we can finish our work on time.” Then, you be quiet, too.  We need to model the behavior we want.  After the time is up, give students a few minutes to chat.  Then, give them feedback and have them provide feedback as well.
I also recommend creating an anchor chart with your class so they know the appropriate times to talk.


2.Talk less
We get restless when we have to sit and listen without a chance to talk.  So… talk less. Give students more time to talk to one another.  Utilize turn and talk.  Do class cheers.  Use callbacks.  Have students work in groups or with partners. 


3. Use Callbacks
Callbacks are a great way to have students reset and focus.  I use the same three for consistency.  When I use the “Class, class” callback students know it is time to repeat after me.  There are a ton of other callbacks you can use.  Find the ones that work for you.  To switch it up I will use different voices.  It keeps callbacks from becoming stale.  I will use my fairy, deep, underwater, squeaky, quiet, loud, fast, slow, etc. voice to keep it fresh.









4. Use Table Points
Give the table a point each time they work, transition, clean up, etc. quietly.  At the end of the week, the table with the most points, earns something.  Maybe it’s a treasure box, lunch with the teacher, ten minutes of free time, job of their choice, seat of their choice –whatever you decide on.





5. Blurt Alert
Blurt sticks are an amazing tool.  If students interrupt your teaching, this is a very effective strategy.  You can create a signal as a warning to give students a chance to stop. Or you can just give them the “teacher eye” and, looking directly at them, put up 1 finger then 3 fingers (make a W) so they know that is their one and only warning.  If it happens again, they get a blurt stick.  If a child gets three blurt sticks, then they have a consequence.  You can send a letter home or take away some of their free time. If you have a few impulsive kids, I suggest starting fresh after lunch so students don’t give up for the day knowing they’ve already blown it.






6. Secret Phrase

Tell the students to listen for a secret phrase (ex: lickety split.) that you will randomly insert when you are teaching. I recommend saying the phrase near the beginning and end of your teaching so they focus the entire time on the bulk of what you are instructing. Have students give a thumbs up when they hear it.  They will be so focused on you they won’t have time to chat. 


7. Read picture books
Here are a few of my favorite books to read that address talkative students.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne C. Jones
Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice by Julia Cook
Listen, Buddy by Helen Lester
My Mouth Is a Volcano! By Julia Cook
Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow



8. Use signals
Teach children to kindly use quiet signals to help refocus classmates. If the teacher is teaching and a friend tries to talk to you, put your finger to your lip then point to the teacher. This will tell the person to stop and remind them where they should be looking. Explain to students that if someone is talking TO them and they're not stopping it with a quiet signal, they are not helping their friends learn the right thing.  Good friends help their friends be better.  If their classmate doesn’t stop after given the quiet signal three times, then they can let you know. Some students are relentless.  I’ve had students move away and the talker follow them, so there needs to be a limit before teacher intervention.

9. Five Finger Countdown
Hold up your hand with 5 fingers up when teaching. If someone talks, blurts, or interrupts, you put down a finger. You do not need to announce who interrupted, it’s just a signal for students.  If you have no fingers up at the end of instruction, decide on a consequence.

10. Relationships {the most important strategy}
When you have positive relationships built on love, care, and mutual respect, problems like this end quickly.  If you have a student who is constantly being disrespectful, go out of your way to talk to them and get to know them better.  Find the positives and appreciate them.  Have conversations with them explaining your frustration.  Ask them to help you.
Relationships matter.  They are the most important aspect of our profession.  They make coming to work enjoyable.  Pour all of your efforts here and I promise you that you will see a change for the better.


 
I have posted all the materials included in this post as a freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Find it here.  And while you are there, give me a follow my clicking on the green star that says, “Follow me”.


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We all know that research says students need to feel included, loved, and safe in the classroom to learn.  They also need to move.  Team Builders are the best way to incorporate both of these!
Positive relationships with teachers are important in supporting higher levels of self-esteem, higher academic self-efficacy, and more confidence in future employment outcomes (Ryan et al., 1994)





Team Builders have their purpose.  Here are the primary:
1.         Build connections – I always say relationships are the most important aspect of teaching and learning.  Team Builders help build connections with teachers and peers.
2.       Mental break – We all need mental breaks to energize our body for more learning.
3.       Movement – Movement stimulates brain cells and the ability to learn.




Team Builders help our body refresh so students can focus on learning.  If teachers need breaks when doing hard work, so do young students.  Breaks from learning help us recharge and reset.  They give us energy.  Taking breaks is essential to learning.



Important social skills, such as, encouragement, acceptance, compassion, acceptance, cooperation, and respect are embedded in every activity. Team builders develop community and foster a positive classroom environment where students feel safe and encouraged to take academic, social and emotional risks. 




You may be saying that you have a positive climate in your classroom so you don’t need team builders.  Maybe you think you don’t have time for them or maybe you don’t see their benefit. I am going to respectfully disagree.  Our students are going to need to be effective communicators, collaborators and problem solvers to get a job in the 21st century.  Team builders work on all three.  You only need 10-15 minutes for each activity and the benefits will far outweigh the time spent.




Team Builders come as projectable slides or printable cards.  You choose the format you prefer.



If you are interested in fostering relationships in your classroom, you can find this resource here

Let us know how you build relationships in your classroom in the comments below.


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The Reading Restaurant was open this week and it was a hit! I served up some fabulous books and my first graders were totally engaged.
If you haven’t tried a book tasting yet, I highly recommend you give it a try! It’s easy to do and an inexpensive room transformation. All you need is great books, a serving tray, and if you want, a chef’s hat and apron and tablecloths.








The day prior to the Reading Restaurant have students make reservations.  I used a reservation list and students just signed their names onto the reservation list.
I decided to serve books that were fiction, nonfiction, fairy tales, biography and series.  I selected diverse books from each genre.  I had around ten to fifteen books for each type.  I did not want to overwhelm students with a ton of books.  Since book tastings are supposed to be like speed dating, I wanted my students to have enough time to look at all of the books. 






On the big day, the classroom was ready to go. The above photos were taken before school. Once students arrived, I divided them  up into five groups randomly.  I asked if they had a reservation and took them to their table. I turned on some soft instrumental jaz music to add to the mood.



Students were given their book tasting books and I explained what would happen and reviewed expectations for the day.






I served each table the books from their genre on my serving tray.  I introduced myself as the Chef and asked them to jot down in their books the characteristics of the books in that specific genre.  Each table had a sign explaining the genre as you can see in the pictures above.






Once students wrote the characteristics of their genre, it was time to read!  Students were asked to look at all of the books and, then, if there was time left, to read.  After about 20-25 minutes, groups rotated to another table and began the process all over again.








My first graders absolutely loved the Reading Restaurant and asked if we could do it again.  We just may!  It was a wonderful way to celebrate books and share the love of reading!


All of the materials I used are from my Reading Celebration Diverse Books resource.  Beside materials for the book tasting, it has some great activities to go with amazing books.
I am Sacagewea by Brad Meltzer
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Mosca
I am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor by Maria Dismondy
Brave by Stacy McAnulty
I am Helen Keller by Brad Meltzer
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Little People, Big Dreams Anne Frank by M. Isabel Sanchez Vergara
Alma and How She Got Her Nameby Juana Martinez-Neal
I am Gandhi by Brad Meltzer
You can find it here.


My Amazon store has a list of everything that I used for the book tasting.  Find it here. {These are affiliate links}


I hope I convinced you to try a book tasting!  Let me know in the comments below!







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I Love 1st Grade by Cecelia - 3M ago

Number sense is an absolutely critical math skill.  Without number sense, computing and understanding relationships within numbers is difficult.  We all know students that know algorithms but have little understanding of the math involved. These students don’t know what to do if an algorithm goes wrong.  Some of them can’t even tell if the answer they got makes sense or not. This is why early number sense is critical.



What is early number sense?
1. An awareness of the relationship between number and quantity
2. An understanding of number symbols, vocabulary and meaning
3. The ability to engage in systematic counting, including notions of cardinality and ordinality
4. An awareness of magnitude and comparisons between different magnitudes
5. An understanding of different representations of number
6. Competence with simple mathematical operations
7. An awareness of number patterns including recognizing missing numbers
(J. Way, 2001)
Students need to understand numbers relationships and work flexibility with numbers. This number sense is crucial when students encounter more challenging math standards in the upper grades. We have got to build number sense in the primary grades.  It takes a lot of practice and most math curriculums do a very poor job in including these critical skills.
One of the best ways to develop this number sense is through subitzing and counting activities.





This post shares some of my favorite ways to use math warm-ups to develop and improve students’ number sense. These activities are perfect for a quick daily math review and/or as a time filler. They all easy to do and make an incredible impact in students’ number sense.
Flashing quantities encourage students to grow their subitizing abilities.  I show my class an image for a few seconds (like the ones above), and have students try to name the quantity shown. The speed of the image flash decreases students’ tendency to count by ones. After students share how many they saw, we discuss the strategies for identifying the quantity. I also use a paper plate and play doh to do this activity.  I like it because the play doh sticks onto the plate and I can quickly change quantities and how they are displayed.



Counting is not just a memorized sequence. It is putting a name to quantities, understanding how our number system is organized, and using patterns. Counting experiences help students recognize the relationship among numbers.  Students need repeated practice with counting to become fluent with counting sequences and to develop their number sense, and one of my favorite ways to teach this is through a counting circle. Counting circle is a routine that requires whole-group participation, where each person says a number as students count one-by-one around the circle.  We can go forward, backward and even skip count.




Ten frames are a great way to show quantity.  Once students understand how they work, they can use them to add and subtract.  We can also use multiple ten frames to work with larger numbers. I keep blank ten frames in the classroom so students can easily access them.
Do you have ten frames in your classroom?  If not, here is a link to download mine. 
Thank you for reading and please share how you develop early number sense in the comments below!





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Research has shown that phonological and phonemic awareness are the #1 predictor of future reading success.  Being phonologically aware prepares children for later reading instruction in phonics, word analysis, and spelling (Adams, Foorman, Lundberg, & Beeler, 1998; Chard, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1998). But what is phonological and phonemic awareness?





Phonological awareness includes identifying and manipulating pieces of oral language; such as words, syllables, onsets and rimes. Children who have phonological awareness are able to identify and rhyme, clap out the number of syllables in a word, and recognize words with the same initial sounds like 'farm' and 'father.'

Phonemic awareness is the most advanced level of phonological awareness. This is the awareness of individual phonemes, or sounds, in spoken words and the ability to manipulate those sounds.  Phonemic awareness can be done in the dark.  No letters are attached – just phonemes.  Phonemes combine to form syllables and words. For example, the word 'sat' has three phonemes: /s/ /a/ /t/. There are 44 phonemes in the English language. 


Phonemic awareness is the foundation for reading.  Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read.

Beginning readers NEED systematic, explicit phonemic awareness instruction.  Children should be given opportunities to apply and develop facility with sounds.  As a matter of fact, phonemic awareness has been found to predict reading success in later grades.  This has to be a primary teacher’s top priority.

Examples of phonemic awareness include:
·      phoneme counting : "How many sounds do you hear in the word cape?"
·      onset: rime manipulation: “Add /k/ to the beginning of at.”
·      syllable awareness: “How many syllables in the word watermelon?”
·      word to word matching:  "Do mat and men begin with the same sound?"
·      rhyming: "Tell me all of the words that you know that rhyme with the word cat?"
·      blending: "What word would we have if we blended these sounds together: /t/ /o/ /p/?"
·      phoneme segmentation: "What sounds do you hear in the word sun?"
·      phoneme deletion: "What word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cap?"
·      phoneme manipulation:  “Say track without the /r/.”

Children from culturally diverse backgrounds may have difficulties with phonemic awareness.  Exposure to language at home, exposure to reading at an early age, and dialect all affect the ability of children to understand the phonological distinctions on which the English language is built. Teachers must apply sensitive effort and use a variety of techniques to help children learn these skills when standard English is not spoken at home (Lyon, 1994).

Students at risk for reading difficulty most often have lower levels of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness than do their classmates. The good news is that phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can be developed through systematic, direct instruction.

Finding curriculum for phonemic awareness is difficult.  There are many products that have bits and pieces of the components of phonemic awareness but teachers don’t want to {or have time to} piecemeal a program. There are resources labeled phonemic awareness and then have letters and words in them.  That’s phonics.   Teachers want to be sure they are teaching effectively and efficiently. 
After spending many months looking for a program, I decided to develop a resource for teachers.  We have been using it successfully in my school for years now.  This program provides 10-15 minutes of daily instruction plus TONS of activities to do as intervention.  Of course, an assessment of all of the components of phonemic awareness is included to allow teachers to target remediation.  






Since this is a bundle, I thought I would give you a sample to check it out.  That way, you know some of the resources included in this 656 page bundle.  You can check it out here.


What I love about this resource is it is all encompassing – every aspect of phonological and phonemic awareness is included.  There is daily instruction for the year.  It has Powerpoint slideshows to practice skills and incorporate technology.  There are games.  It has activities with Jenga, dot paint, cones, and play dough.  This resource has words for kindies and words for second graders.  It’s perfect for third graders who need additional support.  It has it all.




















This bundle is 50% off today, 2/16/19, as part of a President’s Day sale.  Download the freebie and check it out today!  Please let me know what you think!





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These are always burning questions: How do I work with small groups of students? What is the rest of the class doing?  How do I create independence with my learners so my guided reading time will be uninterrupted?





"What do you do with the rest of the class during Readers Workshop while you are meeting with small groups or holding 1:1 conferences," is the question I get asked the most.  As we all know, you can have the best small group lesson but if the rest of the class is disruptive or disengaged, the lesson will fail.
There are many options of structures you can use, and I am sure that over my 24 years of teaching that I've done most of them.  The trick is finding a structure that meets your criteria and needs and works with your particular group of students.

When I began teaching, we used Readers Workshop.  Students and teachers read for long periods of time.  Then, we switched to centers.  Centers were a lot of work and required lots of time.  The students were busy, but I didn't always feel like they were doing authentic tasks.  Next, we switched to Daily Five.  Again, I felt like students were spending less time reading and more time completing the tasks of the week.  Now,  I am back to the Readers Workshop model. It is not the same workshop model I used 20 years ago.  There is more teaching, structure and choice. Students spend the bulk of their time reading.  All of the time is spent working with books.

A workshop framework is less structured than centers or Daily 5.  Students naturally transition and the time flows.  I don't sound chimes or ring a bell to let students know it is time to switch.  Students do that independently.
What I love about Readers Workshop is that students spend their time reading...and they love it.


We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year building independence.  Here is where some of the Daily 5 practices come into play.  We build stamina and chart it. It takes a long time.  We begin at our desk and then branch out to flexible choices around the classroom.  We still chart our stamina and have daily discussions on how we are doing, why we are doing what we are doing, and how to be better.  Are you in need of a stamina chart?  You can snag my chart here for free.


It takes about a month to get students independent with book shopping.  I allow them 5 just right and 5 just for fun books in their book box. They have a reading mat and place all of their books on the Start side.  After they are done reading the book, they place it on the Done side. Then they can read backwards.
This is what their Reading Mats look like:



What Readers Workshop Typically Looks Like in My Classroom:

1.  Teacher reads a book and teaches a lesson.  I use Reading for Real as my instruction.
2. Students do a comprehension task that is based on the lesson.  Teacher pulls a small group.
3. Students find a comfortable spot in the room and read from their book boxes.
4.  Teacher continues pulling groups throughout that time.

If students wish to read with a buddy after they read their book boxes, they may.  Many of my students continue reading their own books.

Buddy reading needs to be taught.  I am very explicit down to elbow to elbows, knees to knees, both partners are holding the book.

My students keep all of their work in their Reading Comprehension Journal.  This is a great way to progress monitor and look at student growth.  I use these during conferences all of the time.




The Reading Comprehension Journal focuses on comprehension strategies.  We begin with the favorite part {and why}.

Then, we move on to characters and setting.


Next, we work on connections {text to self and text to text}, predictions, asking questions, retell, main idea, visualization, making inferences, and finally, synthesis.










What I love about this journal is that it has multiple ways to show mastery of skills and you may use your favorite sheets over and over again with different books.  We keep our journals on a ring so it is easy to add new pages.  Students just put the pages under the tab we are working on so they are again reminded of the strategy  Each strategy has page teaching them about the strategy and some sentence stems.











I love Readers Workshop because my students are actually reading.  Research shows students need to spend more time in books to become proficient readers.  I love that my students are doing authentic tasks instead of busy work.  Skills and strategies that are taught during the lesson are practiced during this time so students are able to use them correctly.  

What are your students doing when you are meeting with small groups?  What works for you?  Please let me know in the comments below!



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