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In recent weeks, I’ve gotten several inquiries in regards to my portable word wall. I’ve decided to put this post together to end the mystery behind the portable word wall ::cue mystery music:: and to hopefully get you to join in on this amazing way to have a word wall while saving space and promoting engagement.
You’ve seen it, you’ve wondered about it, you’ve even contemplated taking the plunge and making your word wall portable. But, something is holding you back — you don’t understand its purpose. I’m going to explain the portable word wall, gush over its benefits, and give you tips on how to introduce it to your class.
What is a Portable Word Wall?
It is exactly as its name denotes. The words that we normally put on the word wall are on cards instead of written on the wall. They are organized alphabetically and placed on rings to create word wall “books”. They can be hung up on the wall and students go up and grab a “book” depending on what word they need help with. i.e. A student is writing and is not sure how to spell “friend”. They know the word begins with the letter F so they go up and grab the F book and take it back to their seat.
Why Use a Portable Word Wall?
1. It is a Space Saver
I used to dedicate an entire bulletin board to my word wall. It was great, but when you have limited display spaces in your classroom, it is not so great. Now I am able to use my cork board for student work display and my white board as a focus wall. A portable word wall doesn’t need a lot of space. My word wall isn’t even located on a wall that would be used for anything else. It is on the lower end of the wall and at eye level with the students when they sit on the rug. It is literally available wall space that I wouldn’t be using otherwise.
2. It is Engaging!
Yes, it is!! I LOVE that the students take responsibility of their learning. With the idea of student centered classrooms at the forefront, we can say that a portable word wall centers around the students. Whenever my kiddos are writing, they love getting up to the word wall and grabbing the book they need. The hands on experience makes it personal. The students remember that it is a tool for their advantage and it is very helpful for students who struggle with tracking letters because the word is right in front of them.
3. It is Portable!
My classroom is not fully flexible when it comes to seating arrangement, but during independent work time, the students are never at their seats. We sit in different areas throughout the room in order to work and some areas are far away from my traditional word wall or out of a student’s view. With the portable word wall, it doesn’t matter where my students are because they have access to it. They can easily grab the book they need and take it back to where they are sitting.
4. It is Interactive!
You are not limited to keeping the portable word wall on the wall. Because the words are on cards, they can be used to “play” some center games or for fluency practice. Students can use them to do read and write rainbow writing in which they read the word on the card and then write it 3 times using different writing tools (markers, crayons, pens). They can also use them as flash cards with a partner to practice reading and spelling. My personal favorite is when a student holds a word up on their forehead for their partner to see. The partner will spell the word and the person holding the card must identify which word they spelled. Fun!
Frequently Asked Questions
When do you introduce it to the class?
I introduce it right at the beginning of the year and place as much emphasis on it as I would a traditional word wall. Students should understand its importance and how it is a learning tool for their benefit and not a toy. Practice how to get it from the wall and how to put it back so that it is always in alphabetical order. Explicit instruction of how to manage it goes a long way.
How do I avoid it becoming a game?
The biggest attraction with the portable word wall is that students get excited about it because they will get to manipulate it. They get to stand up out of their seats and who doesn’t love getting a good stretch? I like to nip this “getting up and pretending I need a word wall book because I want to walk around and get a good stretch” behavior from the beginning (I’m sure this never happens in your class :wink:). Students are expected to highlight or underline any word in their writing that was aided by the word wall. This way, they have “proof” that they used the word wall. I notice that after the initial 2 weeks, students don’t even need the proof anymore because they learn how to use the word wall appropriately and for their benefit.
How will my students know if the word they need is on the word wall?
Initially, they may not because they don’t know all of the words that will end up on the word wall. At the beginning student may ask me “Is this word on the word wall?” If I know it is, I ask them what letter they think it begins with and then have them attempt to find it themselves. With continued exposure, the students start to remember which words are there and which words are not. As your students interact with them, they will find words that they wish were on the word wall. With this EDITABLE resource, you can add those words in and customize for your students’ needs.
Do you start out with all the words or add them as you go?
Either way works. I know many people that do it gradually. I like to put them all out at the beginning because it increases exposure. I don’t want a student to have to wait until a specific unit when I introduce a certain word if they may already need it now. As students are looking for words, they are inevitably being introduced to others. Exposure is always a plus.
What command hooks do you use and where did you find them?
Kay is a primary grade teacher and Professional Development instructor in Massachusetts, who is passionate about educational equity and sound pedagogy. She shares her challenging path to education on her blog (www.primarycornerstone.com) and how it shaped the kind of teacher she is today. Kay is a wife and mother to two vibrant girls and balances her time between family, school, TpT, and faith based services within her community. Don’t miss her down to earth approach, insightful advice and everyday antics with her family on her Instagram feed (https://www.instagram.com/primarycornerstone/).
When a recent poll asked teachers if they only had a single day to teach, what they would teach… the results didn’t surprise me a bit. No one responded that they would teach long division, linking verbs, or even the weather. Almost every teacher mentioned things like caring, respect, gratitude, and so on. If we all feel so strongly that character education is what we want to be teaching, it must be important enough for us to somehow fit it in, even in a high stakes testing era.
So, how do I teach Character Education? I do it in five steps:
1. Model Positive Character Traits
I would never expect my kids to learn kindness if I didn’t display it myself. If I want them to be respectful, I need to be respectful of them as well. This day-to-day modeling of the traits that we want them to have is really key. It serves as a base for the direct lessons that we do in the classroom.
2. Use Morning Meetings to Teach Character Traits
Morning meetings are the perfect time to teach character education traits. In one corner of my classroom, we have a futon and a few cozy chairs, and my kids love to take turns sitting on these, with the rest of the kids gathered around, sitting on the floor. We call this our meeting area. We generally meet about 15-20 minutes a time, four to five times a week. At our morning meetings, we do a quick share out time, where kids are able to tell us a News of the Day event from their lives and then we focus on whatever character trait we’re working on for the month. I usually start by reading a mentor text to the kids, and then we discuss how the character trait was or wasn’t shown in the story. After that, we may play a game, do a role play, or do some other activity related to the character trait, depending upon our time.
3. Do Activities to Reinforce the Character Traits
There are lots of things you can do to reinforce the character traits. Role playing is something my kids love, and I sometimes choose small groups to do a mini-skit of either a good or a bad example of the character trait of the month. Discussing scenarios together is another way kids can get involved. My Character Education Kit comes with 32 scenarios on task cards for each of the character traits we do but of course you could make your own. I find that kids really like to share their ideas, and this is a great time for them to really think about real life situations and how they should react when faced with different challenges.
Self-reflective quizzes are one of my favorite quick activities and are also included in my Character Education Kits. I tell my students that these quizzes are confidential and that no one will know what they write down but that they should be very honest with themselves when they take these. These quizzes are a great way for the kids to evaluate how they are doing in relation to the character trait we’re working on. Once they tally their scores and I tell them what a particular range of scores means (from Awesome to _______ is sometimes difficult to you), the kids recycle their results, so no one sees it but themselves. Great self-awareness activity.
4. Do Object Lessons
One of the most powerful things we can do to teach character education is to include object lessons that reinforce the traits. For example, when I teach responsibility, we read Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. Then I give each child a plastic Easter Egg (which they decorate like a person) and their job is to take care of the egg for 24 hours! A true life lesson and one they don’t forget.
When we do fairness, we read Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna, and I bring in apples, but not enough for the whole class (purposefully). I tell the kids that only those with glasses will get the apples or only the girls, or only the kids who wore sandals to school… Finally, after some discussion and with such passion on their earnest little faces, we come to the conclusion that this wouldn’t be fair. So, we divide the apples evenly and everyone gets an equal amount and is happy… and has learned a great lesson in treating others fairly to boot.
5. Incorporate Art
Art is one of my favorite things to incorporate in the classroom, no matter what I’m teaching. Character Education lends itself nicely to art projects. For caring, for example, there are a million heart projects on Pinterest that you could adapt for this purpose. We did the checkerboard hearts in the picture above. Another way you can add art is as a springboard from one of the mentor texts you read. For example, if you read Elmer by David McKee, which I love to use for Respect, you could easily have the kids do a watercolor picture of a multi-colored elephant, just like Elmer. Label the bulletin board ‘Respect” or Remembering to Respect”, and you have a really cute board as well as a reminder to the kids of the respect lesson that you did together.
Another thing I use in my classroom is the Character Education Kit, which has an entire year’s worth of activities and lessons:
Want to try a whole month for free? Here’s a Kindness/Caring Unit that I would love to share with you. You can download it at my TpT store:
Making a difference in the world is one of the main reasons many of us became teachers and purposefully teaching character traits is one way we can do this! When we intentionally teach to the heart, as well as to the head, we can make a difference in the lives of our students.
Want to read more about how I do Morning Meetings?
If you’ve found the ideas here helpful, please share this with a teacher friend! Thanks so much!
Jenn Larson comes from a teaching family! Her mother and father were both teachers, as well as her brother, and now her daughter is in the teaching program too! Jenn has been a classroom teacher for a little over 20 years. She has taught in California as well as Kansas. She started in 2nd grade and most recently taught 4th and 5th grades. In 2013, a teacher friend suggested that she put some teaching materials on TpT, since she was always making and sharing things with her grade level. She decided to call herself The Teacher Next Door because wherever she has taught, her best friend is always the teacher next door to her. Jenn’s goal is to create resources which are engaging for kids and easy to use for the busy teacher.
This post originally appeared on the blog Presto Plans in 2014.
At the end of the school year, my husband and I received the exciting news that we were expecting our first baby boy. Although I did experience many of the first trimester symptoms, I was off for two glorious months where I was able to get as much rest as I needed. When August was coming to a close, reality started to set in. The summer was over, and I would be back to teaching 100 students a day, planning lessons, marking assignments, going to meetings, running our school’s Grad Council, and completing what seemed like an endless to-do list. I soon learned that teaching while pregnant was far more challenging than expected. Below are some tips that helped me along the way!
Deciding when to share the news of your pregnancy with your boss, colleagues, and students is a deeply personal decision. Some people simply cannot keep their pregnancy a secret, while others feel much more comfortable keeping the news to themselves until they are out of risky territory.
Personally, I chose to tell my administrator as soon as I returned from summer vacation, so she would be aware of the reason I may be missing time for illness or appointments. I asked her to keep it to herself until I was ready to share it with the staff and students.
I told my colleagues and students I was pregnant at about 13 weeks (when my doctor told me the risk of miscarriage significantly decreases). Looking back now, I wish I had told my students in a more creative way (as a test question, bell-ringer riddle etc.), but I was so excited that I basically just blurted it out! One unexpected benefit to sharing the news with students: they tended to be better behaved and were more helpful in the classroom.
Teachers are generally a selfless group of people. They go to work early, leave late, and spend their evenings marking or lesson planning. They also selflessly devote their free time to extra-curricular activities and after-school supervision. They often do this without complaint because it is for the kids.
Pregnancy is one time when you need to slow down and put yourself and your baby first. When you are pregnant, you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time. Here are a few of ways you can work smart and keep your sanity:
You’ll need to start approaching your lesson plans in a way that doesn’t have you running around the classroom all day long. If you teach elementary, you might consider setting up center activities with one center being a teacher-led group at a desk where you can sit down. If you are a middle or high school teacher, you might consider organizing student-led lessons or discussions where you can sit back and listen for at least part of the class.
One of my favorite ways to get students talking and get me off my feet was to facilitate a silent discussion. Read about how to use this activity and grab a free template here: SILENT DISCUSSIONS. This method can be used to discuss questions related to a particular concept you are teaching, or you can also use it with general discussion questions. I love this activity with my ethical dilemma prompts because they always elicit lots of discussion even from your less outgoing students.
Find ways to bring videos or clips into your classroom. For most topics you are covering, you should be able to find a related video. One way that I did this was to start every Thursday with a video journal where students watched a thought-provoking clip and wrote a journal entry for 15 minutes (click the image below to see volume 1 of my video journals). This gave me a few minutes in between classes to rest my feet.
This one requires a bit of planning, but if you can find a few relevant guest speakers to come in to speak to your classes, especially near the end of your pregnancy, you will really thank yourself. Having a few days where you can relax and let someone else take the reins will give you a well-deserved break.
During the first trimester, you will most likely be exhausted when you get home. We all know that a teacher’s day doesn’t end when the final bell rings, so you need to start using class time to your advantage, so you can put your feet up when you get home. Take the time when students are working to correct homework, input marks, or lesson plan. You don’t need to be constantly circulating. Instead, have students come to your desk!
When we think of a teacher, they are always standing in front of the room. You need to change that picture by sitting as much as possible when you are teaching. I felt odd sitting in my ‘teacher chair’ because I was so low, but I put a higher stool at the front of the class and this is where I spent the majority of my time instructing. It was a life-saver!
Emergency lesson plans is a requirement when you are pregnant. I would advise you to have ready-to-use plans for at least five days printed and put in folders on your desk. Pregnancy is unpredictable and you may need to miss time. I was out with back pain and having plans ready on my desk was invaluable! If you don’t have the time to make your own, try searching Teachers Pay Teachers, and you are sure to find emergency plans for any subject. Below are the resources I left on my desk (for middle and high English). The folder included lesson plans and all the resources the teacher would need to implement the lesson in all my classes.
Another one of my favorite lessons to leave for a substitute teacher is my Missing Teacher assignment. It could be used in any subject area and is a great assignment to leave if you are really in a pinch. The assignment is about your inexplicable absence and puts students in charge (by the principal) of investigating the reason you are not at school. Students will create a Missing Teacher poster and an investigative police case file that has them examine evidence and witness testimonies. I can guarantee that you will come back to school to an assignment that will definitely get you laughing!
Teachers get so busy they often forget to drink water during the day. Get in the habit of bringing a refillable bottle to class and keeping it with you at all times. One trick I used to remember to stay hydrated: Whenever a student asked to go get a drink (which was at least one student per class), that was my reminder to drink water, or if the bottle wasn’t full, I would ask them to fill it for me. You could also put a chart on your desk to write down how much water you drank per day as a reminder! I aimed to drink eight 8-ounce glasses per day.
Teachers are notorious for being cruel to their bladders. Add pregnancy in the mix where you need to go constantly (especially in your first and third trimesters), and you have a serious problem! Here are a couple tips to make going to the bathroom a bit easier:
If you are lucky enough to have a teaching/educational assistant in the classroom, ask them to supervise while you are gone.
I know at the end of each period, students bombard me with questions about upcoming work. I tried to leave a few minutes for questions at the end of class, so I could run to the bathroom between classes.
Enlist the help of the teacher next door/across the hall. Let them know when you have to go and ask them to keep an eye on your students.
Most women experience nausea in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. One way to stave off this symptom is to eat small snacks often. While I generally have a no-eating policy in my class, I tell them that pregnancy gives you a free pass. I would keep crackers, celery sticks, apples, nuts, or raisins in my desk drawer to snack on in class.
If you are a teacher, you know that you spend most of the day on your feet. When I first started back to work, I wore little heels as I always had. I ignorantly expected to wear these shoes until the end of my pregnancy. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the heels just were not going to cut it. I found cute flats for fall and flat boots for the winter that made life easier (my husband was also happy as he didn’t have to give as many foot massages).
We all know that lunch for a teacher is often not a restful hour. Teachers spend their lunches scarfing down their food, supervising students, giving extra help, photocopying, or planning. When you are pregnant, you have to make a conscious effort to rest during lunch and breaks or you will burn out by 24 weeks! Have extra help one day a week and stick to that day, try to switch supervision duty with someone in an area where you have the chance to sit, and allot at least half of your lunch for eating in a seated position (no walking down the halls with your sandwich!).
Although I know this can be a challenge for some, you should also try to limit the work you bring home. Teaching is exhausting when you are not pregnant, so throw in the first-trimester fatigue, and you will be napping on the couch at home much more than usual. Limit your work at home by only marking summative/final assessments (please don’t mark everything students complete) or doing weekly lesson plans, so you aren’t scrambling every night for a plan for the following day.
This is what I struggled with the most. Remember, you are pregnant. You are growing a tiny precious baby inside who needs you to think about yourself and him/her for 40 weeks. Every lesson doesn’t need to be spectacular, you don’t have to mark everything, you are not required to participate in any extra-curricular activities, and you shouldn’t be volunteering for any extra commitments. If you need to take a day off, take it off. Your students will be okay without you! If you have to go off on maternity leave early for whatever reason, your students will be taken care of.
Bonnie from Presto Plans is a Teacher-Author who lives in New Brunswick, Canada with her husband and sons. In her career, she has taught English at all of the middle and high school grade levels and has received her advanced certification in Literacy Education. Her goal is to create fun and engaging teaching resources that help develop students’ skills in reading and writing. You can connect with Bonnie by following her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
We at TpT believe the best ideas and approaches to learning come directly from educators. It’s why all the resources on TpT are created by Teacher-Authors who understand what works in the classroom. Teacher-Authors work incredibly hard to ensure that their fellow educators can meet the ever-evolving needs with high-quality, standards-aligned resources. Team TpT sat down with four Teacher-Authors to learn how they think about Common Core State Standards (CCSS) when creating and tagging resources to TpT.
Q.What’s your TpT story? A. I taught upper elementary school for about 23 years — mostly 5th grade. In 2014, I started uploading and selling my creations on TpT, and then about two years ago, I left the classroom to do TpT full-time. In addition to my store, I also help other Sellers with my TpT-focused success course. It’s an eight-video series that addresses all the different ways TpT Sellers can help classroom teachers, one of which is the need to tag their resources with CCSS.
Q.Why do you think it’s important to tag resources with CCSS? A. A lot of times, TpT Sellers live in states that don’t push CCSS, so they think that it’s the same way everywhere else. In fact, that’s not true. Right now, there are about 42 states that require teachers to use CCSS, so when Sellers don’t tag their resources, they’re missing out on an opportunity to help other teachers out there. There are also a lot of teachers who are required by their districts to document the standards that their lesson plans address. So when TpT Teacher-Authors can list the appropriate standards on their resources, it’s really helpful because teachers don’t have to hunt around for that information.
Q.What do you make sure to include or do when creating standards-aligned resources? A. When I create a resource, I want to make sure that there are a variety of ways that teachers can approach a particular standard so that their students — no matter their level — can really master it. For example, I would not have just multiple choice questions for a particular standard. I would also have multiple choice, open-ended, and some deeper-level thinking questions. I want to make sure that I have a variety of ways that students and teachers are approaching that particular standard so it’s not just surface-level mastery.
Q. When you’re creating resources, how do you incorporate standards into your work? A. When creating a resource, I’ll start off using a passage I’ve already written and then tinker with it to make sure it’s written for a specific grade level. Then, I’ll go to the standard I’m trying to meet, read it, and look up sample questions to make sure I’m on the right page. I actually have the standards physically next to me while I’m creating a resource. Once I have the passage written in a way that I can create activities for certain standards, I create activities, writing prompts, quizzes, and suggested lesson progressions.
Q. Why do you think it’s important to tag your resources with CCSS? A. Teachers are required to gather so much data on their students throughout the year — especially on how they’re progressing on standards. When I was teaching, we had this giant data room where there was a huge spreadsheet that showed how each student was advancing. It was intense. That’s why I want to provide teachers with a way to accurately gather information and track how their students are progressing on ELA standards. I know it would’ve made my life so much easier when I was teacher if I had resources specifically tailored toward standards that I had to teach to.
Q. What’s an example of the kind of feedback you’ve received from Buyers because you’ve tagged your resources with CCSS?
A. I’ve had teachers leave feedback saying they wish there was more for that certain standard. One teacher said of a resource, “This is incredible! This is the high quality of reading content and level of questioning that I want my students to use… I would love to see more content like this on this standard!”
Q.What’s the process by which you create your standards-aligned resources? A. Right now, I’m working on a full-year U.S. history curriculum. Once I decided what the units were going to be, I cross-referenced a few different state standards, and also looked at the national social studies standards. Using those as a reference, I then chose what topics were going to be included in each unit. After that, I did a lot of research because social studies is a subject area that is rich in both content and facts — and I like to make sure that my resources have background information that teachers can give their kids so they don’t have to struggle in coming up with or looking for that information. Once it’s written, I revise it to make sure the readability is appropriate for a middle school level. Then, I think about which reading and literacy standards the social studies lesson could also include. I don’t try to hit every standard in each lesson because that’s impossible to do, so I just try to see which literacy standards fall into that particular topic and then I create a couple of activities that hit them.
Q.What motivates you to tag your resources with CCSS for other social studies teachers? A. When CCSS came out, middle and high school teachers couldn’t just teach social studies anymore; they also had to teach literacy in order to meet the national requirements. Social studies is already a challenge for many teachers because there’s so much content to cover in one year. On top of that, it’s really difficult for secondary teachers who aren’t trained in literacy to incorporate it into their social studies lessons. By tagging my resources, I let teachers know that these can not only help them teach their WWI unit, but also hit six or seven of their literacy standards, too. That way, if they get observed or if they need approval from their administrators, they can demonstrate how it hits the social studies standards, integrates literacy, and helps them be more effective teachers.
Q.Have you heard any great feedback because you tagged your resources with CCSS? A. Yes. I’ve gotten lots of feedback on how my CCSS-tagged resources hit the standards they’re supposed to hit in a concise way. My customers felt like they knew what they were getting before they bought them. I’ve also gotten a ton of feedback on how they have saved them time, and how they don’t stress about turning lessons in to admin their admins because they know what’s in there.
Q.Why did you decide to become a Teacher-Author on TpT? A. I became a TpT Teacher-Author when I switched to the 2nd grade in 2013. I had a really hard time finding specific standards-aligned resources that were rigorous and could be used with my students. My admin was really adamant that whatever resources we used that weren’t from the textbook or part of the curriculum needed to be rigorous and aligned to what we were already teaching. I wasn’t finding those resources for my student demographic on TpT, so I just started creating them. At first, I just created resources that I could use with my kids and then it turned into creating resources that other primary teachers could use, too. That’s how my TpT journey began.
Q.How do you create standards-aligned resources to help other teachers who might be in a similar situation to the one you were in? A. When I was in the classroom, our curriculum was really outdated, so my team and I created a hodgepodge of resources to help us meet our students’ needs. First, I would identify a need, and then, I would search around to see if there was anything out there that I could use so I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. If there wasn’t something out there that was really specific to my student population, I’d work on creating it. I’d take the general Common Core standard or concept, and from there, would start developing a unit based on that standard. I’d have the standards pulled up from the website to make sure that I was really addressing them.
Q.Have you heard any great feedback because you tagged your resources with CCSS? A. Yeah! I’ve gotten feedback from customers on social, email, and on TpT that it’s really helpful. One customer said, “I feel like I hit the jackpot finding this resource! Before coming across this amazing unit, I found it extremely difficult to find good resources on California Native Americans to use in a 4th grade class!”
It’s been a while since I wrote about my Interactive Mindful Notebooks and how teaching mindfulness in your classroom as part of your social and emotional teaching can dramatically improve children’s happiness and help them to learn. A wonderful side effect of all that is that classroom management issues are greatly reduced.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I could extend that learning. Teachers from around the world have been messaging me and leaving feedback asking when I was going to post another set. I created the Interactive Mindful CHRISTMAS set so that students could keep learning kindness and self awareness in the busy season of Christmas. (What better time, really?) I was going to initially focus on personal and social responsibility but then realized that there was a more pressing need out there, that of diversity and inclusion. Here I added some concepts of personal and social responsibility into it as well. That is how this new edition was born.
Since I started teaching over 20 years ago, one of my most favorite things to teach has always been a multicultural unit. I have always felt that it was important to celebrate differences and find similarities in us all. I always had students research countries that were part of their heritage or ones they were interested in and then we shared our learning in a special celebration complete with research reports and a huge multicultural feast! It was always difficult to find non fiction books at the 2nd and 3rd grade level way back then and even somewhat now. But I persevered because the kids loved it and learned so much.
Today, there is a need to go beyond this. Diversity is what the world is all about. All of our classrooms are full of children from all parts of the country and all parts of the world. Our cultural learning needs to become part of our everyday learning, embedded into everything we do. Diversity does not only refer to culture. It also refers to learners of all abilities, ones with learning and/or physical disabilities, students with other varied beliefs, backgrounds, and orientations and students who live in poverty or who have experienced trauma.
How can we address all this in our classrooms? It is a complicated and complex thing to do,but we must make every effort to ensure all of our students feel that they belong, that we care about them and that they matter.
My new Interactive Mindful Notebook for Diversity will help you to start thinking about this and implementing it with new fresh ideas and supports. This set is for 2nd-5th grade and has suggestions for adaptations for the younger students as the concepts are quite complex but are manageable if time is taken for each concept.
This Interactive Mindful Notebook for Diversity carries on from where the first one left off. The first one was all about personal awareness and mindfulness and this one extends to mindfulness and others. It is designed to be used with middle year 2nd graders to 5th grade as it has differentiation ideas. Ideally, it is used as a set with the original Interactive Mindful Notebook but it can be used as a stand alone for 4th and 5th graders if they are already quite self aware.
This notebook teaches students about being mindful of others. If you do not have the original notebook, I have included the What is Mindfulness activity and printable here too. The following concepts are covered:
Students will create timelines of special events in their life. They will then compare these to classmates to show that there are similarities and differences but that we all go through this life together as human beings – all cultures, all abilities, all beliefs.
Students then learn about perspective taking. This is a critical component to understanding behaviors and why people do what they do. It helps kids to understand that we many all have eyes but we may not see things the same. Perspective is also guided and influenced by life situations and events. Students will draw something from varying perspectives, observe and identify something and then try to locate the one that belonged to them and see if they can describe a visitor to their classroom after they have left.
Students will then take a look at their role in life. We all know that teachers have many, many roles. But so do kids! If they recognize these roles, they may be more inclined to realize how important they are in this world and to be grateful for what they have and use their abilities, strengths and love towards others.
Students will work with these roles and have class and partner discussions to build understanding of others.
Our family is a part of who we are. This unit explores the different families that make up your classroom. The focus is on making things obvious, acceptable and part of who the student is as an individual. The younger we can teach this, hopefully, the more easily students will be able to transition into older grades with less insecurities.
The last section is on stereotypes. Students will learn about stereotypes and create an anchor chart with their teacher about common ones. Then students will choose from the chart and turn the stereotype around to the positive.
The last two lessons are on our own stereotypes (or social problems for younger students) Students will identify their OWN stereotypes and then work on changing their own thoughts. The key is recognizing that they might have a stereotype belief and being willing to set a growth mindset type goal towards changing that fixed mindset idea.
Our world is changing so quickly. It’s important that we keep up with meeting ALL of our students’ needs. If you focus on this in your classroom, you will notice deeper learning and engagement and more positive behaviour.
After spending over 20 years in the elementary classroom, Shelley has spent the last few years as an instructional coach, mentor, and District teacher. She has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on writing development. Her passion areas are in student engagement and collaboration as well as teaching students to read, write, think mathematically, and share their learning with others. She has always believed that students who own their own learning learn better and are happier students. Stop by her TpT store, or visit her blog.
Revising. How often does it get shuffled to the back of the writing line, skimped, or morphed into glorified editing? Probably a little too often. But revising has the potential to be a powerful part of student writing, where opportunities to grow as writers are thick.
In another post of mine, I gave you a plan to change the classroom writing cultureso that revising played a significant, vital part in student writing. I also promised you specific, practical revising strategies that would help students get the most out of this part of the writing process, and in turn, help get the most out of their writing.
Well, here they are: 12 “big impact” revising strategies to introduce to your students. Each one jives really well with a one-column rough draft format, which you can read about in my post called Rethinking the Rough Draft. It’s a simple change but will help set the stage for students to implement these revising strategies.
Now let’s get rollin’ with the strategies…
Students mark a bracket around the first few sentences of their rough draft, narrowing their focus to just the beginning of the piece. They read this marked section carefully and think about the feeling they want to give the reader and how to grab their attention. Then students try rewriting their beginning differently. (It’s important to emphasize with students that even if they like their beginning, to go ahead and try writing it differently because they might stumble onto something even more successful.) After a rewrite, students ask themselves a series of reflection questions: Which beginning gives the right feeling to my reader? Which beginning grabs my reader’s attention more? Which beginning makes my reader want to read on? Have I chosen the right place to start? Do I need to back up? Do I need to skip ahead?
Students mark a bracket around the last few sentences of their rough draft, narrowing their focus to just the ending of their piece. Similar to “Lead the Way,” students read their ending and think about the feeling they want to leave the reader with and how to bring the piece to a close. Would an unexpected ending be a good choice? Would an ending that summarizes information be a good choice? Then students try rewriting their ending differently. Afterward, students think about which ending would be more satisfying to the reader.
Students choose a medium-length section, around 6-10 sentences, of their writing in which they like. They read the section carefully. They think about what they like about it and if there’s a way to do it even more. Then students try rewriting the section. Since they already like what they have, students are encouraged to take some risks with the second attempt. They can always choose to keep their first attempt, but you never know, they might go from good to great! After the rewrite, students ask themselves a series of reflective questions: What did I write in my second attempt that is strong? What did I write in my second attempt that didn’t work as well? Which attempt do I want to keep? Or are there parts of both that I want to use?
With a medium-length section of their draft, students read carefully and underline details that could be combined to say the same thing, could be stated more simply, or are off-topic or lead the reader astray. Then students look back at the parts they underlined and decide whether or not to keep each part, asking themselves: How would this section sound without the part I’m considering removing? If I had to remove one sentence, which would it be? Is the section better without it? If I remove all the parts I underlined, would this section be better. Afterward, students make any other needed adjustments so the draft still flows together.
Students choose a small section of their writing (a few sentences or one paragraph). After reading it carefully, they find one place to add a whole new detail sentence, and one more place to add two whole new detail sentences. To help find places to add details, students ask themselves: What part of this section could I explain or describe more? How can I use my senses to add more details that “paint a picture” for my reader?
With a small section of their writing, students first look for a word they remember choosing carefully, putting a start nearby to show it off. If they don’t find one, that’s okay! Then students find three more places to choose a word that is the perfect fit: an exact word, a special word, a word that is “just right” for the situation. They might replace two words with a single perfect word, or add a describing word, or change a word for one that better shows or describes what they want.
With a medium length section of their writing, students use their pencil to track the words as they read them out loud. It’s important that they are able to hear their own voice. As students read, they pay attention to their voice. For any parts they stumble on, get stuck on, or even have to pause at, they underline them, thinking of them as rough spots that need smoothing out. Then students rewrite the section, revising the underlined parts so that when they read it out loud again, it’s easier to read smoothly. Afterward, students ask themselves: Is my revised section easier to read now? Are there any parts that need touched up a little more?
Students choose a small section of their piece and read it carefully, being sure to get the full gist of what they wrote. Without looking back at the chosen section, students rewrite it. They can change a little or a lot but they make sure it still connects to the sentence before and the sentence after. Students then read their “second take” and without looking back they rewrite the section for a third time, trying to make it even better. Afterward, students reflect on questions like: Which of my three “takes” do I think is the strongest? Are there bits of one take I like and bits of another I also like? Should I try one more take to blend them? Do I need to change anything to make this section fit back into the whole piece?
For this strategy, students use their whole draft. As they read it, they look for places where there seems to be a hole. They mark these places in the margin with a circle. Maybe they find a gap in their story or they simply forgot to tell a part. Or maybe they realize they jump from one part to another too quickly. After reading and marking their draft, students revisit the places they marked and write the missing pieces so the holes get filled. Afterward, students ask themselves: Have I closed the gaps that need closing? Was I careful to only add details that help make the piece more clear?
Students use their whole draft for this strategy. Before doing anything else they think carefully about the purpose of their piece as a whole… Why did they write this? What is this piece truly about? What did they want to make sure their reader knows or feels after reading it? Next, students read their draft carefully, pausing after each half-page to decide if the section is on track with the big picture they thought about before beginning. If they think the section might be off-track, they mark the margin with a circled question mark. Students then revisit the places they marked and make revisions to bring them back on track, asking themselves: How can I change this section so it fits better with my purpose? How can I get it back on track?
This is a partner strategy. Students split their draft into four sections, using the margin to number each section, 1-4. Then they trade drafts with their partners. Students read each section of their partner’s draft, thinking about what’s working well and what might not be working as well… How easy is this section to understand? How easy is this section to imagine in your mind? After reading all sections, they choose which section is working the best and they tell their partner why they think so. Then they choose one section that could use a little more work and tell their partner why they think so. Partners then trade back drafts and reread the section that might need a little more work, revising it where needed, asking themselves: How can I make this section work better? Why did my best section work so well? Can I use any of those strategies here?
This strategy is a spin-off of the other “smooth it out” strategy, adapted to partners. Students trade drafts with their partners and sit side by side. One partner reads one page of the draft out loud (we’ll call this partner the reader) while the writer of the draft follows along. For any spot where the reader stumbles, gets stuck, or that the writer has to explain, the writer marks the margin of the draft with a dark dot. (The writers do not attempt to fix or revise these spots while their partners are reading. They just mark the margin for now and let their partners continue reading.) After one page, students change roles, working with the other person’s draft. Students then trade drafts back to the owners and revisit the spots marked in the margins of their own drafts. They make choices about what needs to be revised in order to smooth out the writing. Some spots might be a quick fix or change, and other spots may need a bigger revision.
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You’ll notice that most of the strategies have students isolate a portion of their draft with which to revise. Putting serious effort into revising can quickly become overwhelming, but when balanced with just a bite-size chunk of their draft, it’s much easier for students to be in the right frame of mind. They can always (or you can always have them)
apply the same strategy to additional portions of their draft if needed.
Be sure to check out my full pack of revising strategies, including all twelve you read about here, plus four BONUS strategies, all designed on handy half-page cards. Each card breaks down the strategy into sections: What to Use, What to Do, and What to Ask Yourself. Then I include an example of using the strategy so students can have some context and see the logistics of implementing it.
Print and laminate the cards and stick them on a ring, or create mini-booklets for each student! The resource comes with color and blackline versions of all the strategy cards, as well as helpful posters for student reference, booklet “accessory pages,” and teacher notes. Click HERE or the image below to check out the resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
These strategies also show that revising hard is much more than a little tweak here and a little tweak there. Trying to make your writing better comes in a variety of actions. To help drive home this way of thinking, I made the “Revising Is…” poster shown below. You can download it for FREE by clicking HERE.
Whether it be by discussing and displaying the poster, teaching your class one (or all!) of my revising strategies, changing the format of how students draft, or breaking down one revising’s status quo obstacles, I encourage you to take a purposeful step forward into the powerful world of revising.
Michael Friermood has taught for 11 years in grades 2-5, and is currently a full-time Blogger and TpT-Author. His blog, The Thinker Builder, is dedicated to helping teachers build readers and writers who think boldly and deeply. Check out his TpT store, or find him on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Looking to save time preparing for report card conferences? In search of fun Common Core math activities or new ways to provide visual directions in a multicultural classroom? You’ve come to the right place! This week, you’ll find innovative resources including a report card comment generator, a reading toolkit, an escape room bundle pack, and more. You won’t want to miss the resources below. And don’t forget: half of them are free!
“Morning Message is an important way to create a warm, welcoming classroom community. Morning meeting is the perfect time to teach acceptance and talk about diversity. Cultural responsive teaching is providing students with ‘windows and mirrors’. These pictures are a great way to go deeper with your morning meeting and make your students more aware of the world around them. These powerful pictures contain images from all over the world. When I use this in my classroom, my kindergarten students lead the discussion.”
“Save time writing report card comments! Reuse sentences from student to student, and watch the students’ names and pronouns magically appear within the finished comment, ready for pasting into report cards.”
“You’ll write report card comments faster than ever with these polished, pre-written sentences for grades K-6. These 14 editable pages cover social skills, personal responsibility, and academics for students at grade level, below grade level, and above grade level.”
“This resource helps continue to create that reading life in the classroom by allowing students to take ownership of things they’ve read. This product also helps to enhance the reading culture by providing the next year’s students with recommendations from other students.”
“Relieve your students’ stress and anxiety with these uniquely fun coloring banners. Personalize your classroom with a touch of your students’ colors and help motivate them with 30 different growth mindset quotes.”
“This resource has allowed many teachers to assess their students’ mastery of Common Core Standard 3.OA.8, solving two-step word problems using the four operations. It has given students a chance to use any problem-solving strategy they’ve learned to help them solve each problem. It has helped teachers gain an understanding of their students’ mastery of the standard, 3.OA.8.”
“This resource provides teachers with an engaging, yet rigorous format to work on essential 3rd grade math concepts. The students work in teams or individually to work through five levels of escape room questions. This also allows the teacher to get a better understanding of their students’ knowledge of the skills they’ve learned.”
Are you interested in starting a classroom or school Makerspace OR maybe you want to learn more about how Makerspaces work? You’ve come to the right place! I have to admit that this blog post is lonnnnnng overdue because my Makerspace has been ever changing and evolving over the past three years. The “Makers Movement” is gaining more and more traction in elementary schools each year, and the positive impacts on our students are truly immeasurable!
I’ll start with some Makerspace basics and then give you an up close look at all of my current Makerspace components and how they work!
Watch the full video tour below:
What is a Makerspace?
A Makerspace is an area of the classroom or common media space that is reserved for creative exploration, engineering, tinkering, and inventing. Makerspaces incorporate engineering materials, crafting materials, technology, robotics, and more. The area can be used during whole class STEM challenges, incorporated as a center or small group rotation, or accessed during unstructured creative time with STEM Bins or Maker Mats. You may choose to limit materials or assign specific tasks to students. You may also choose to allow time for more free range exploration and inventing. The possibilities are endless!
A Makerspace can be located in an entire section of classroom, a bookcase, or even a mobile rolling cart. Supplies should be clearly labeled on containers and baskets, and materials should be safe and developmentally appropriate for the age of students that you teach. Supplies can be rotated in and out as you see they are needed.
Although it might take time to achieve a well-stocked Makerspace, many of the supplies you will acquire can be used over and over again. Most teachers, myself included, are “hoarders” of creative supplies. The first place you should search for possible Makerspace supplies are your own cabinets, supply closets, and pantries. Retiring teachers are usually willing to give up years of collected supplies. Garage sales, thrift stores, Dollar stores, craft stores, and hardware stores have many inexpensive supplies. For pricier materials such as robotics, I would highly recommend seeking out grant opportunities through organizations such as DonorsChoose. Parents are usually great resources for the donation of inexpensive materials.
The purpose of a Makerspace is to tap into as many different interests, passions, and strengths in our students as possible. As educators, we are tasked with the most important job in the world: creating the next generation of problem solvers, innovators, and earth-shakers. In a Makerspace, children have opportunities to discover, assemble, construct, test, and explore using divergent, “outside the box” thinking. Through creative exploration and purposeful play, students become critical thinkers and inventors while collaborating with their peers.
Welcome to My Makerspace
My Makerspace is located in the corner of my classroom, with the majority of my materials stored in these three large shelves. I also have some materials stored above my cabinets and on a rolling cart as needed. I have a separate LEGO wall, which is pictured below. The rug below the table was purchased from At Home.
My favorite brand new addition to my Makerspace are these giant paper mache letters from Hobby Lobby. My daughter and I grabbed these at 50% off, painted them black with black acrylic paint, and hot glued everything we could find in the back of my cabinets at home and school. Items starting from the top going right: straws, PVC pipes, popsicle sticks, dried out markers, feathers. Second row: buttons, pom pom balls, toilet paper rolls, wooden spools, Target building bricks. They are extremely lightweight, so I used clear thumbtacks to hang them on the wall.
This shelf primarily contains paper goods and arts and crafts supplies, which you can see labeled on each tub. I purchased the boxes with lids and purple/orange baskets on top from Walmart a few years ago. The ones without lids are from Target Dollar Spot. Editable labels and supply checklists are available in my Makerspace Starter Kit.
Almost all of the items pictured above were purchased through grant awards or yearly allocations. Snap Circuits Junior are a big favorite among my kids, allowing students to experiment with basic electrical engineering. We also love creating with Keva Planks Brain Builders and our new Keva Maker Bot Mazes. The STEM kits on the bottom shelf were purchased at Lakeshore Learning Store.
My STEM Bins area is also included in my Makerspace, with everything students need for simple engineering. STEM Bins are ideal for early finishers, morning work, centers, and so much more! Check out my post below to read all about STEM Bins:
Here are three of my favorite engineering materials for any Makerspace or STEM Bins area: Goldiblox, KEVA Planks, and Magformers. These materials are favorites among my kiddos and extremely versatile, so we use them for STEM Challenges as well as STEM Bins or Makerspace time.
Our monthly Maker Mats provide students with just the right amount of guidance and inspiration as they create in the Makerspace. Tasks are simple and open-ended, appealing to a wide range of student interests and multiple intelligences. I hang my Maker Mats on a tabletop chart stand so that I can easily rotate monthly tasks. Maker Mats can also be sent home with students for a more meaningful and creative homework option.
Our iPads and technology are located in a separate area of my classroom so that they can be charged easily. After I introduce apps to my students, I encourage them to incorporate those apps into Makerspace tasks. Each month, we focus on a new creative app as the “App of the Month.” The app cards pictured above are found HERE.
On top of the round table, students can look through the various App Card options and may also choose to build a simple structure with the engineering task cards.
I moved my LEGO wall to a separate area near my Makerspace so that it is more easily accessible to students. I leave this area fairly open ended, although the Basic Engineering posters pictured above are a wonderful way to encourage students to use more engineering vocabular
y as they create. Students love to use the LEGO wall to create birds-eye view creations, letters, and basic structures and scenes. The rainbow baseplates can be found on Amazon. I am so thankful for my handy husband who hot glued the base plates to plywood and framed it for easy hanging on the wall. If you’re wanting an easy and quick way to create a LEGO wall, peel-and-stick baseplates are the way to go, but they are quite a bit more expensive than the regular baseplates. 365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks is also an awesome source of inspiration for your kids in any LEGO area.
My Makerspace Quote Posters feature famous quotes by scientists, inventors and scholars that promote the engineering design process and a growth mindset. They’re ideal to display in a Makerspace or any classroom.
Finally, my STEM bulletin board is the perfect visual for students to remind them of our steps for the Engineering Design Process.
Thank you so much for letting my share my Makerspace with you!
Brooke Brown is a National Board Certified Gifted and Talented teacher who specializes in all things STEM and Makerspaces. She has been creating resources for Teachers Pay Teachers for the past five years and is the creator of STEM Bins®. Brooke is a national presenter and loves to bring hands-on engagement and memorable learning experiences to all subject areas. She is married to Andy with two children, Ellie and Beau, and blogs on her website, Teach Outside the Box.
With TpT for Schools, it’s easy for administrators like you to put high-quality educational materials directly into teachers’ hands with the support of school funds. For the second part of our Q&A series, we sat down again with Moriah, a TpT for Schools Account Manager, to talk about the payment and licensing options that administrators have once they’re ready to start purchasing resources for their teachers. Read on to learn more!
Q. How can I pay for the resources that my teachers request?
A. Because you can purchase TpT resources for your teachers through TpT for Schools, it’s a good idea to start thinking about which payment and licensing options might work best for your school. As an administrator, you can pay for resources by submitting a PO (more on that in a minute!), using a credit card, or depositing funds into the TpT for Schools account ahead of time and drawing from the available balance.
Q. How do I add funds to the TpT for Schools balance?
A. To add funds to your TpT for Schools balance ahead of time, you can deposit funds using a PO or credit card, and then draw from the available balance to pay for future purchases (just like you would at a bank!). The ability to purchase TpT resources using your account balance makes it easier for you to plan ahead with your teachers, purchase teacher-requested resources quickly and easily, and plan how to use your budget for the upcoming school year.
Q. How can I pay for TpT resources with a PO?
A. At checkout, you’ll have the option to pay with a PO. From there, you can enter the billing information for the person who needs to receive the invoice and generate a quote to send them — so it’s OK if someone else in the district or business office is the one who signs the POs! (FYI, there’s no minimum requirement to use a PO, but there is a $2.99 processing fee for each one.) Once TpT receives the signed PO, the purchased resources are automatically sent to the teachers who requested them.
A. Once you’re ready to start purchasing resources with TpT for Schools, it’s important to understand our licensing policy, which is: when you purchase a resource, each license is to be used by one teacher for their individual classroom. This policy is the same sitewide regardless of whether or not a teacher or a school is making the purchase. So if you have multiple teachers in your school who’d like to use the same resource, you’ll need to purchase a license for each of them (i.e. five licenses for five teachers). We currently do not offer a sitewide license or subscription service, so the school will have to pay for each license that it purchases for its teachers. One advantage of using TpT for Schools, however, is that you can easily purchase multiple licenses at once!
Q. What types of licenses does TpT offer?
A. In addition to non-transferable licenses (which can only be used by one teacher for their lifetime), administrators using TpT for Schools can take advantage of another type of license: the transferable license. A transferable license can still only be used by one teacher at a time, but unlike a non-transferable license, it can be reassigned to a new teacher once a year. Since the school or district is funding the purchases made through TpT for Schools, we wanted to provide the school with the option to retain the license in the event that a teacher leaves the school, goes on maternity leave, or changes grade levels.