Back to School Rules

Hey there,

As we get ready to head back to school I of course start thinking about that first week. What can I do differently, what worked last year, how can I spice it up, etc. One activity that always makes the schedule of course is to create our classroom rules or expectations. I typically read aloud a story all about rules like "No David" or "Officer Buckle and Gloria" they all focus on the no.  So our great list making conversations always end up with a lot of "Don'ts." 

Over the years I have not only shortened up our list, but tried to make a point of positivity in our rules. I just got tired of listing all the things that they couldn't do, I am so tired of "no" ha.. maybe I say it too much at home I guess. LOL

So. this year I decided to give my kiddos some more in-depth work on rephrasing our statements from negative to positive. We will be focusing on what we can do while implying the can't do.

I discovered a fun book at my last library visit with the boys. It was called "Back-to School Rules" by Laurie Friedman. If you have read it you are probably thinking, well it is FULL of don'ts. Well you are right it is... the perfect book to practice on. I also LOVE that is it full of silly don'ts, for example, "don't slither on the floor" or "don't whistle, burp or bite." You and I both know those do come up at the carpet and we have to pause and "mini lesson it up" on what common sense means. This books helps to get some of those silly, crazy rules out of their system at the appropriate time and helps to not detour the good conversation following the story.

I chose a handful of negatively toned rules from the story and made "I can" rules that featured the same outcome, but in a more positive light. I then created  mini posters for sorting whole group or in small group. I also created a few activities that allows them to practice rephrasing, making up their own "I cans" and then a fun craft to present them. I also made a few comprehension activities to introduce author's purpose and review main idea, setting and supporting details.

Click here to check it out in my store!

I really love creating my classroom expectations with my students. If you haven't already started doing that, I would definitely recommend trying. There is so much more buy in and they truly do have great ideas, even if the occasional "don't cut your hair" or "swing from the lights" does come up as suggestions. Ha! 

Typically my list ends up something like this: 

We can try our best and work hard. 
We can be kind to others. 
We can be good listeners to others. 
We can make safe choices.
We can have fun. 

Of course each year has variations, but usually very similar. If my kids keep coming up with lists like this it feels like a win to me. Cheers to another great upcoming year!


Compassion in Action

Hey there Friends!

My school community has always done a good job of promoting outreach projects, but to ensure that kids are really taking away all that they can we need to provide more deliberate instruction on what it means to be compassionate and the impact that just one person can have.

I have always loved doing community service projects within my room such as food drives, various clothing drives and a favorite of mine, the craft kits for our local children hospital. Many of these units in my room have been inspired by school fundraisers, but not until I took the time to deepen my student's understanding did they feel compelled to fully participate.

When children realize that you believe that they can make a difference, their ideas are so priceless and incredibly kind. They just want to do it all. There is nothing like the innocent, raw compassion of a child. We all know that.

I decided to take my compassion projects to another level by finding literature to better provide my students with an understanding of the issue/problem we were focusing on. I also created shared reading activities and fun extensions with science, art and when applicable math. In the unit there are additional resources to extend learning and fundraising ideas as well.

My first unit is focused on water conservation inspired by the book "The Water Princess" by Susan Verde. The story is about a young child in Africa, who walks for miles each day to retrieve water alongside the other girls and women of her village. After I initially read the story I found out that it was inspired by the childhood of super model Georgie Badiel. Georgie partnered with the author Susan Verde to bring awareness to this struggle and inspire people to contribute to her foundation that helps to provide access to clean drinking water and sanitation for the people of Burkina Faso.


I was so inspired by this that I decided to donate 50% off all sales of this unit to her foundation. 

I also added the realistic fiction story "Why Should I save Water" by Jen Green. This story shows kids real life changes that they can make in their everyday lives to help conserve water. Through small actions they can make big impacts.

After each of the read aloud books I created different comprehension activities to work through with my kiddos. Author's purpose, schema, sorting and text evidence are a few of the highlighted skills. Once kids have a deeper understanding of the text we explore further with the water cycle showing how long it takes for wasted water to make it back through the cycle into a useable resource. My favorite part of this unit is the extensions into our greater community such as fundraising to help build wells in less fortunate areas of the world or walking a mile or two to help my kids take a glimpse into what some women and children do each day to find water. 

Check out this unit in my store by clicking on any of the images below. 

I hope this inspires you and your kiddos!

kina Fas

Hey there, 

I don't know about you but I have always had one main rule in my classroom and it is to be kind to others. Even more so now do I want to make sure my students understand not only to be kind, but why and how we can be kind to others. We have a decent social skills curriculum in our district, but I wanted to be even more intentional with the teaching of kindness and compassion. So I did some digging and found a few great books that spoke to kindness and what it means to be kind. 

These are the books I started with...
 "Do Unto Otters"  

After reading “What does it Mean to Be Kind?” We brainstormed what types of things we could do to show kindness. As well as what it doesn't mean.

Later, I did another mini-lesson on each of the 3 focuses of compliments, empathy and gestures

My kids did so great with the activities I created and the discussion was so great I decided to take it further in action based kindness.
 I introduced the compliment bags to my students. I passed out compliment sheets to each student so they would have enough to write a compliment for everyone in the class. We also talked about what a meaningful compliment sounds like and feels like. I also provided compliment starters for my kids that might be stumped. My kids wrote 2 compliments each day to their classmates. You can spread this out however you would like. My kids were begging me to write more and wouldn’t let a day pass where we didn’t write compliments. I wouldn't let me kids open the compliments until the last day, this is also a choice you can make. I just wanted to make sure that each kid had the same amount when opening. 

These beginning activities inspired me to keep explicitly teaching kindness through various texts and other activities. I even made my kiddos inspirational bookmarks with words of compassion and kindness quotes from famous people. They love them!

My kids have loved it and so have I. It is absolutely one of the more powerful things I have done in my room. Next we will be making our kindness pledges to display for all to see and hopefully inspiring others. 

If you want to check out the activities I did you can visit my store by clicking the images below. There is also a kindness FREEBIE! 


I hope that it has the same impact on your kiddos and classroom. 

Kindness starts with you.

Mapping Fun!

Hey there! 

So last week we started our unit on mapping and landforms. Our social studies curriculum is unfortunately rather bland and leaves little hands on practice for our kiddos. So reviewed all the main components that my nuggets were expected to know by the end of the unit and I created some interactive games and activities to help reinforce all the necessary mapping skills they would need.

Next, I went into town and found a variety of different city maps. The local train, bus station or city center are great spots to pick up maps. You can also go online and search your city for walking maps.

After I had all my maps ( I looked like a crazy tourist by the way) I put my students in groups of 2. I gave each group one map and they each got their own mapping activity.

The kids worked together to find specific things on the map. At the end we shared out what we found and the landmarks they would want to visit and why. (They loved that part)

I HIGHLY suggest getting actual maps, the kids felt so grown up and really enjoyed the activity. Many of them had never looked at a real paper map before.

The next day I had the kids design their own maps of make believe cities. I passed back out the maps from the previous day to give them some ideas on what they should add. I also included a dream bedroom activity which they always love, but doesn’t include landforms of course.

After they completed their own imaginary place maps they got with partners to play “I’ll Race you There” or “That Be My Treasure” 
You  can purchase compass dice on Amazon:
I also created printable compass dice or spinner options.

I wanted to share one of the fun games I created as well as the compass spinner and dice. FREEBIE TIME:

I hope you have fun exploring with your kiddos!

If you want to check out the full product:

A Review of Stephanie Harvey's "Amplify Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom"

Inspired or Overwhelmed?

If you are anything like me, you see something new and inspiring and you instantly try to figure out how to incorporate that into your classroom. We all want to offer our students the best we can. Now in the age of social media, we can glimpse into thousands of classrooms every day. I don’t know about you but this can both be inspiring and downright overwhelming.
This spring our district was offering a series of book studies and I of course hopped in both! Reading a good professional development book can refresh you and leave you ready for action. July hit and I looked over at my stack of personal and PD books and decided to take Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke with me on our first summer trip. Though I may have been looking forward to the quick summer read I also brought along, I decided to give Amplify a go.  I am so glad that I did.

You Don’t Have to Do It All, Even Though You’ll Want To!

I will let you know I consider myself to be pretty “tech savvy” and up to date on most educational trends. But, within each chapter I found new tools, approaches and activities. This is when I got out my favorite flare pens and started jotting down all the new approaches I was going to somehow incorporate into my classroom. I mean who wouldn’t want to set up a recording booth that allows readers of all levels to review the latest book they’ve read? And that was only Chapter One! As I read deeper into the text what I found was less of the “big ideas” and more on how I can make technology work in my classroom: ME… not my teammate, not the tech leader at the school, me. WOW, that was refreshing, what do you mean I don’t have to do it all?
So, this is what made this book different for me than many of the others I have read. The authors ask you to foster your own “growth mindset” and learn along with your students while simultaneously telling you not to do everything. …“just because we can do something innovative, doesn’t always mean we should.” Implementing technology into our classrooms is important, but we should do it in a way that is meaningful to our students and, frankly, to us. Within each chapter, Amplify reminds the reader of the importance of literacy, critical thinking and independence and how, within these foundations, we can incorporate technology.
Growing Your Technology Mindset
Each chapter has a focus that will support your growing development as a teacher and learner of technology. A few examples are “Developing a Mindset for Technology”, “Connecting Technology to Existing Classroom Practice” or “Foundational Lessons for Independence.” Each chapter provides multiple avenues to reach the goal set forth. Depending on your experience level, there is an option for you and an option to try something out of your comfort zone. Real-life stories and examples are shared as well as additional resources to take your learning further. At the end of each chapter are “three things to try tomorrow.” These were things we, yeah I said we, can do!
For example, in Chapter Two the reader is challenged to
  1. “Set aside thirty minutes a week for you to discover and play,
  2. Carve out classroom time for students to discover and play”
  3. Sign up for a conference, webinar or Edcamp.”
Overall, Amplify will leave you feeling inspired and confident to hit the ground running with ideas that resonate with you. Whether it’s implementing the various activities or trying different approaches to teaching and learning technology, you will walk away knowing yourself better as a learner, leading you towards the best next steps in your journey.

My First Amplification: Tech Troubleshooting Mini-Lesson

troubleshooting tips full size
One of the first items I am going to implement is a student-friendly resource for technology troubleshooting. If I can give my students tools they need to independently walk through basic issues, it can lead to more time in the actual program and an increase in their confidence. I plan to do a troubleshooting mini-lesson, review the different approaches to solving tech issues, and allow the kids to attempt each one. Front-loading this information will pay off for me. We have all been there: ten hands in the air and only one you or a kiddo who needs help at the tech center while you are leading a small group. Imagine how much further we could get in our lessons if students were empowered to independently take on basic fixes. You can get my printable resources for this mini-lesson free at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Blurt Beans to the Rescue

Hey there!

We've all had chatty classes before, but this year my kiddos were having an even harder time than I was used too. I had tried my regular go to strategies and they just weren't working. So I started doing some blog hopping and research to find the support that I needed... BLURT BEANS!

What you need...

1. A container to hold your beans in waiting or lost beans
2. A clear container to show growth/goals/incentives
3. Beans
4. Containers for desk to hold the beans ( I bought stackable pill containers from the Dollar Tree and put wall Tac 'N Stik under each of them them to hold them on the desks.)

Before I introduced the beans I decided to read a few different stories on the importance of not blurting or interrupting. We had great discussion and even made some anchor charts on what it looked like to be a good listener.

I made sure to let kids now that a busy body/body noises are like blurting too (clapping, clicking our mouths, snapping fingers, etc.) It's not just words that can interrupt someone. (This has been huge for my class)

The stories I chose were:

"Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" -speaking to how objects and not paying attention is just as diruptive
"Interrupting Chicken"
"My Mouth is a Volcano"
"Lacey Walker, NONSTOP TALKER"

After two days of focused teaching about the effects of blurting on those around us and our learning I decided to introduce Blurt Beans.


1. I put 4 beans in each kiddos blurt bin each morning.

2. Every time they have a blurt I hold the sign language letter "b" close to me, make eye contact and the kids go and put a blurt bean in the discard container. I have also quietly approached kids if they are not paying attention (ha ha)

3. At the end of the day I have all the kids come put their Blurt Beans in the Incentive Jar.


I chose 4 incentives which I will change from time to time.

1. 10 minutes of extra recess
2. 20 minutes of free time
3. 30 minutes of extra recess
4. Popcorn & movie party!

Make that first incentive pretty easy to achieve. We earned our first 10 minutes of bonus recess within two days! The 10 minutes I lost in instruction time for the incentive will be nothing compared to the time I will be gaining by intentionally teaching about being a respectful listener. PLUS we need to find positives in every situation if we can!

Good luck to you!

Math Fact Fluency Program

Hey there!

It's that time of year where we reflect and revaluate the programs we have in place in our classrooms. I have been implementing a computational fluency program in my classroom for over 10 years doing small modifications here and there. This summer I decided to give it a bit of an overhaul adding more accommodations and choice for differentiation as well as ways to reinforce the learning.

I attended a conference this summer and one of the classes was on how we can accommodate all levels of learners. I took away a lot of great ideas. Some I was already implementing and some I was like "HOW DID I NOT THINK OF THAT?!"  I first made a modification to my math tests. I placed a dotted line half way through the test.  This will help if a child is not passing a level with interventions/practice in place. Cutting or folding the test in half can help to lower anxiety or other various needs. *I have also orally assessed kids in the past to help with anxiety or mind to hand fine motor memory.*

Next, I added some fun games that were interchangeable for each level. I am a big believer in math games reinforcing concepts. Before I had a variety of math games all focusing on number sense, but with these games they will be working with the kiddos specific math facts. The more they see those facts the more likely they will be able to build automatic recall.

I use math games everyday in my math workshop. After assessing student understanding with pre-assessments I break my class up into two or three groups. Each group will get a different mini-lesson focusing on their needs right now. I will introduce new concepts or review previously taught skills depending on that groups needs. While I am doing that mini-lesson with the first group, one group is playing math games and the others are doing a technology piece or seat work activity. The reason why I don't do "fast finishers" to math games/technology is that those kids who struggle or who aren't as quick never got to the games and technology and those are valuable tools in their learning. I feel so much better about this strategy!

Over the last couple years our school has been focusing on growth mindset so with that in mind I changed the "pass" vs. "not pass" at the top of each assessment to "pass" and "not yet". Simple things like that can help kiddos build confidence and strengthen their grit.

 I have really loved this program as well as my parent community. It is clear and easy to manage once you decide how it will look in your classroom. I have co-ran it with a parent volunteer or instructional aid as well as solely ran by parent volunteers with weekly flash card and strategy practice, correcting and graphing and refiling tests. It's up to you!

Here are a few more components that are all a part of the program... I also have it posted in my store, just click on this link: Math Fact Fluency Program  to check it out!

Have a great week and happy planning!