05 November 2016

Growth Mindset: Teach Your Students to Get Gritty!

Growth Mindset

It's education's newest buzzword (or words?) What is it exactly? My definition of it is a person's way of thinking of their abilities, the perseverance to continue working at hard things, and to always be willing to give something a try, even if it's "scary" because you feel like you might fail. 

The idea was invented by Stanford University Carol Dweck. Click here to check out more about her and her book about growth mindset.

I found a research study that was done regarding all of this very interesting. I highly recommend watching the following video. 

Now, as an educator, how should we use this information in our classrooms?

To start explaining it to students, I think this video would be a great introductory video to get a discussion going. I'd ask students to explain the difference between the two girls' thinking. How many times have they felt this way in class? 

I've shown this video. It's a great thing to do when you notice students are struggling with confidence. All of my students are struggling learners so this is a great lesson.

Before doing watching it, I polled the class. I had them vote whether they believed that people are BORN SMART or BECOME SMART. Then we watched it and discussed. Some of the things we discussed were: What are their reactions when things get hard? Do they give up or push forward with more effort and grit? Why do a lot of people quit? What can they do the next time things get hard?

Another great idea for older students might be to give them this quote and discuss:

Some great growth mindset resources on TPT follow...

Growth Mindset Posters by To the Square Inch

Growth Mindset Unit by Teaching with Hope

Interactive Notebook for Growth Mindset by The Write Stuff

Growth Mindset Craftivity by Runde's Room

Resources for Parents, Teachers, and Students on Growth Mindset by Schoolhouse Diva

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17 September 2016

Why You Should Be Teaching Word Attack Skills and the Resources You Need to Do It!

I don't think it is a stretch to say that every classroom has at least one student who could be considered a struggling reader, even in older grades, or in more affluent areas. For one reason or another, that student has not quite grasped the fundamentals of reading.

I am a reading specialist who has worked in my current position for six years. I'm really starting to notice that almost all of my students are weak in either phonics or what we call in the education world, "word attack skills". In almost every school that I go into, after second or third grade, reading instruction shifts drastically from phonics-related instruction to comprehension-based instruction. I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, most students are ready to move on with this shift; however, a few students, usually the kiddos who are referred to me, haven't quite grasped all of it yet. Now, it doesn't take a teacher to realize that if you can't actually READ the words, it's going to make it that much harder to UNDERSTAND the words! This is where many of my kiddos fall into a downward spiral, and it's hard to get them out of it.

My answer? Head back to the basics, review, and FOCUS ON WORD ATTACK SKILLS!!!

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you don't know what the word impecunious means. You may even not know how to pronounce it. (Not trying to insult your intelligence here... I didn't know what it meant when I looked it up. Kudos for you if you do!)

If you were a child reading and you came to that word in a text, what would you do? If you were a struggling reader, more times than not, you're going to completely skip the word and not give it another thought. Now, as a teacher, how can you change that?

1. Teach prefixes, root words, and suffixes.

Nearly 70% of new words that students will come across in higher-level text will contain a prefix and/or a suffix. I was actually kind of surprised when I read that statistic on a website. Why in the world are we not focusing more on prefixes and suffixes?

Being comfortable with these prefixes and suffixes not only allows them to figure out the word by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, but it can also help them figure out the meaning of unknown words.

Remember our stumper of a word from earlier, impecunious? It has a prefix AND a suffix. Knowing this allows a reader to further break it down to im/pecuni/ous and even further to im/pe/cu/ni/ous using syllable rules. At least now we're getting somewhere. If a student remembered that im- as a prefix means not and that ous or ious means having, it would be understood that this word meant not having something.

Now, how about we go a step further? It's likely they saw this word used in context. The rest of the sentence or paragraph could help them figure out the meaning.

Imagine this sentence: Growing up in an impecunious household taught Tom the value of money. Given the context, it would be a reasonable guess to assume it meant not having much or being poor. Since the student was able to use prefix and suffix knowledge and context clues all together, the word was attacked and deciphered.

After thinking about all of this for awhile, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to use with my kiddos. I wasn't finding exactly what I wanted online, so I decided, duh! Make your own! Here's what I came up with...

This is going to be part of a growing bundle. I am working on a suffix edition (coming by September 20th!) and am in the process of designing 2 other products for the bundle.

If you'd just like this first edition, it is available here in my store at TPT.

Each lesson included has a full sheet of text using the words in context to tell a story. Text dependent questions are included as well. 

Sentences are provided for students to practice using context clues to figure out the meaning of the word.

Words are grouped by like prefixes. Students can assess themselves on their knowledge of the words phonetically and semantically. 

Another fun activity that I created goes along with the old Cootie game. (I loved that game!)

Students collect cards to build a bug (prefix, root word, suffix). It does not have to be a real word, but they have to be able to put the three parts together and read it correctly to keep it.

2. Teach Greek and Latin word parts.
Comin' atcha with another statistic here...

Over 60% of our English languages stems from the Greek or Latin language. In science and technology, the figure can rise near 90 PERCENT!!!!

So why should you care as a teacher about this statistic?

Knowing how to pronounce these words or word parts and the meaning of them could be beyond helpful for any child.  I suggest starting slowly (especially in the lower grades) by introducing a few a week. Maybe even make a "Word of the Day" sort of thing out of it. This daily practice and introduction to this whole new side of looking at the English language is critical for word attack and vocabulary.

I found this great website to practice with a fun Greek themed game. Check it out!

Here's another!

3. Don't ASSUME that your students are solid in phonics skills. 

I think as students get into the upper elementary grades it is assumed often that they known letter sounds, vowel variants, blends, etc. I don't have to tell you what happens when you assume something. :)

I'm sometimes slightly alarmed at how poorly some of my students do on a phonics review assessment once they are in the upper elementary grades. I found it often reveals many cracks and holes that NEED to be fixed. Sometimes it is even necessary to go back and review short vowel sounds. It may demeaning to do something like that, but it is critical that they understand the very basics before anything can be built upon it... at least, that is my philosophy.

If you're worried about hurting your students' self-esteem, I have two points I want to make.

1. You are doing this to HELP them. Point that out to them. Make sure they know that you are only doing this work to make sure they understand the basics so that you CAN move on to harder stuff. I find that often when you simply explain to students WHY you are doing what you are doing, they're fine with it.

2. Not reviewing the basics and trying to move on when the foundation isn't solid is only going to make their "houses" crumble in the future.

*shoulder shrugs* That's just my way of looking at it.

Let me know what you do to help struggling readers. I'm always looking for new ideas!

15 August 2016

14 Tips to Help Save Your Sanity in the Classroom

Welcome to the VERY LAST STOP on the blog hop. I feel honored! If you stayed this long, you deserve to win something for sure!!!

The beginning of the school year is the time to set routines, teach clear procedures, and organize things so that you don't go absolutely BONKERS by the end of the first month. I like this quote.

August and September are crazy enough, so remembering to keep yourself, the classroom, AND most importantly- the kids on top of things is the best sure fire way to help everything run smoothly.
I've done some research (mostly on Pinterest, my best friend). Here are the best tips I could find to help you not look like this after your first day.

Setting Routines and Procedures

Everyone needs a break after a long, intensive lesson. Let the kids have a few minutes to have fun and relax. Join in with them! Use this cute idea from The Happy Teacher for Brain Breaks. She gives plenty of ideas of things to do and breaks them down in case you don't know what they are. 

I love using task cards in the classroom and when I don't feel like creating my own I go to Rachel Lynette on TpT. She has almost every imaginable topic covered with task cards. Here's her set for teaching classroom procedures. 

Teaching procedures can be a bit of a drag for both you and the students, but the Pinspired Teacher came up with a really cute idea of a way to jazz it up a bit. Go over and check out her "game" that she created to help practice important procedures. 

Many teachers in elementary classrooms use little chants or sayings to gain students' attention. This cute collection of attention grabbers is a good reminder of a few oldies and some different ones that I haven't heard. Check out Mrs. Heeran's Happenings for more ideas!

I love this freebie from Tamara Russell on TpT. It covers 127 (!!!) Classroom Management Questions. No wonder teachers feel completely overwhelmed at the beginning of the year!

Managing Students

Here's a cool alternative to keep students engaged during a lesson when you want to call on them. Instead of using the typical sticks with names on it use this app called Decide Now. Tonya's Treats for Teachers even used it to decide on a classroom reward. Awesome idea and it's FREE!!

A lot of the times when students are working in centers, I will be working with a group of students as well. I've used this idea before, and I think it's a great way to minimize distractions. Teach your students different hand signals to show that they need something. Ashley from One Sharp Bunch has posters available to put up in your room to use as reminders of the signals. I'm so using this one! 

Managing students' desks is a big issue. Here's a great layout that is well thought out from Hannah at The Classroom Key.

Classroom chatter is probably the biggest issue for classroom management. Students should be talking in your classroom, of course about what they are meant to be talking about, but it should also be regulated. Jen Jones from Hello Literacy wrote a blog post about a cute website called Bouncy Balls. The balls or eyeballs bounce more as the noise increases. I'm not sure if it makes a noise once it gets to a certain level (I hope it does), but I have found that these types of visual reminders are great so that you don't have to keep interrupting with reminders to quiet down.

Another idea (which is nothing new) for student behavior is to reward positive behavior instead of always punishing negative behaviors. Hello Educational Psychology 101! The problem is sometimes it can be a pain to come up with fun reinforcers that don't include food. Beth from Adventures of a Schoolmarm has a great blog post about the rewards she uses and how she does so. This is going to be in my classroom this year!


Here's a genius way to use cheap containers to organize base 10 blocks. Thanks to Janaye from Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes for the idea! She mentions she got them from the Dollar Tree. (Excuse me while I go to the nearest one!)

Do you have students who often forget their backpack or are boggled down with too much to carry? Keep an emptied out wipes container next to the door on the wall filled with plastic bags. Thanks to Allie at Scholastic.com for this idea! 

This isn't much of an organizational tip as it is a classroom decoration idea, but I just had to include it because it's so cute! Marsha from Differentiated Kindergarten made this cute DIY table skirt to hide things under her table. How adorbs! This would be cute too as curtains or just a border somewhere in your room. 

I could post about 30 pictures for this next part from Stephany at Primary Possibilities, but I'll pick one that I am going to be using for sure. She did a whole post about things to get at IKEA for your classroom. Sadly, my closest one is about 1 1/2 hours away, but I look forward to a trip there every now and again. I'm going to be on the look out for these to use for station directions. How cute!

If you'd like to start at the beginning of the hop, click below to start all over again!

06 August 2016

11 Ways To Use Duct Tape In Your Classroom Like the MacGyver of Teaching

So if you were born before the '90's, you're probably familiar with the T.V. show MacGyver. The one where the main character, MacGyver, could get anyone out of any predicament, usually by using duct tape in some way.

Remember this guy? He worked wonders.

Well, I like to think of teachers as their own kind of MacGyver. Teachers are the most genius people on the planet when it comes to using simple, household items to perform a different task than what they were initially intended for. I mean, we're working with REALLY, REALLY limited budgets here. Can I get a hell yeah?

I decided to collect all the genius ideas I was able to find on the good 'ole trusty interwebs via different blogs and Pinterest. Here is a collection of all the genius, MacGyvery ways to use handy, dandy duct tape in your classroom. I tried to do my research to the best of my ability to find the original posts so that I could give credit.

Decoration Purposes

Look at this cute clipboard that a fellow blogger, Marie, made for her classroom. I'm a sucker for animal prints.

Taken from The Hands-On Teacher
See her original blog post

Another option is to change out your students' desks. This would especially be good if yours have some fugly colors. I love what Jodi did with hers. It would especially be great if you have a themed classroom and could find some that matched your theme. Side note: She had a great tip that vegetable oil or vinegar helps take off any messy residue left over after taking duct tape off of things!

Taken from The Clutter-Free Classroom
See her post here

Organizational Purposes

Ok, now, this next one made me do one of those head slap moments like when you say to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?"

I work currently in three different private schools, but I am hired by a public school agency... it's confusing, I won't get into it. Anyway, I use www.readinga-z.com A LOT! When I came across this idea on Pinterest my heart grew three sizes just like the Grinch! I am SOOO doing this. 

Taken from Wicked Fun in First Grade
See her original post here
She used different duct tape to organize all of her books by level. Looooooove. Then she added the same tape to a bin so that kids could easily put them back in the right bin. Not only does it help organize the books, but it helps keep them together better since they are printed. Genius.

To go along the same idea, use duct tape to organize different subject notebooks and folders. This is something that would be very easy for students to do to help keep their lockers, desks or cubbies organized. Everything is color coded. The red notebook and red folder are for reading. The green notebook and green folder are for math, etc. Easy peasy.

Taken from Cleverly Inspired
See her original post here

Also very similar, instead of plain ole colors, jazz up your reading groups with duct tape patterns like Tara West.

Taken from Little Minds at Work
See her original post here

Here's another GENIUS idea. Tape a large straw (think milkshake straws) to students' desks so that they can keep their pencil inside when not using it to help with all of the "I can't find my pencil!" complaints.

Couldn't find original post. Let me know if you find it.

Another idea for pencils is to wrap some of the duct tape around the pencil to show which are yours to help students to return them. (We can wish, right?)

Couldn't find original post. Let me know if you find it.

Misc. Uses

Some children don't understand what "personal space" means. I've seen teacher do this as well around their teacher desk to show a "No Children" boundary for little ones. The blog that I found this on was for Special Ed., so this would work great for kids who are autistic and need that visual reminder of where they need to stay. 

Taken from A Special Sparkle
See the original post here

I've always wanted to make these for my classrooms. I am a reading specialist, so I'm constantly working on letter sounds and phonics related activities. I need to get my butt in gear with these pronto! (The duct tape is just decorative pretty much)

Taken from Make Take Teach
See the original post here

I recently went to a conference where I received a TON of great ideas and tips (which is going to be a WHOLE other blog post that I'm going to do soon) but this was one of them. I'm thinking of having kids make these as well so that we can organize their things in the classrooms. This would also work great with the previous idea of labeling folders for reading groups.

Taken from Classroom DIY
See the original post here

So here is a good idea for all of your summer beverage holders. These would work great if you had students' desks in groups or at a center to organize materials. So, get to drinking!

Taken from Classroom DIY
See the original post here

I hope this post helped to inspire you. I'm sure that you've seen all the different kinds of duct tape that have been out now for a few years. I've found them at pretty much any store from Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Target, Wal-Mart, Michaels, Jo Ann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, AC Moore, etc. 

If you have made anything for your classroom with duct tape or use one of these ideas to make something, please leave a comment and a picture below. I'd LOVE to see it!

03 August 2016

Top 5 Classic Children's Books

So what makes a book a classic?

For me to considered a classic, a book needs to have three things: lovable characters, ideas and a story that transcends time, a likability to it that lends itself to be read over and over again and it never gets old or boring.

If you've read my other posts in this blog hop (which I've loved being involved in... need to do it again Katie!) you know that I'm a HUGE animal lover. So it's no surprise that most of my "classic" books are animal-related. So, without further ado, lets jump right into my list.

5. Charlotte's Web

This is pretty much the epitome of classic children's literature. I think everyone has read the book before or knows the general idea of what happens in the story. It's been made into countless plays and movies... it's pretty much the definition of classic.

4. Fox in Socks and How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I'm counting this as one... cheating? Maybe, but it's my list and I'll cry if I want to.
Fox in Socks is the ultimate tongue twister. Kids LOVE when I read it to them. I LOVE it when I read it to them. It's just fun and pretty much impossible to read without getting tongue tied.

I included How the Grinch Stole Christmas in another one of my posts. That's how much I LOVE this book. My Christmases are not complete until I see the cartoon and read it to my kids. (P.S. How CUTE is Max?)

3. Goosebumps



I remember reading these books like crack when I was little. I was obsessed with them. I think it's what got me REALLY into reading. I couldn't get enough of them. I vividly remember going to the mall with my parents, going into Walden's (who remembers those?) and finding new Goosebumps books. I'm a texture person too, so I always liked that the title was embossed to make it feel like Goosebumps. I was proud of myself when I didn't get scared from the books, too!

2. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

This is probably the newest book on this list, but I really enjoy it. I think I like it sometimes more than the kids do when I read it. It's an awesome book though for many reasons. First, it's a fun take on a classic tale. Secondly, it's funny. Third, it lends itself greatly to teaching point of view and showing how a story can be very different depending on who is telling the story. I often use it for compare and contrast lessons as well.

And now for my #1 classic book...

1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


So, I know it's hard to see, but even in that little blue circle it says, "The classic book behind the major motion picture". See!  I'm not the only one who thinks this book is a classic. I think I love this one so much, because I can just relate to Alexander so well. I feel like I have those kind of days pretty much once a week. I always ask the kids if they feel like they have those kinds of bad days and so many reply, "No!" Boy, I want their life.  


Head on over to the next book!


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26 July 2016

The Back to School Giveaway Winner is.....

So, contests are awesome, especially when you're the winner like Georgette H! 

I emailed Georgette to let her know that she was randomly drawn by Rafflecopter to win and she was so excited! She told me a little about herself... she's pretty new to teaching. She didn't start until her late 40's when she got out of the Navy (thanks for your service, Georgette!)
She's now an early childhood special education teacher.

She lives in Missouri now, but is originally from PA (where I'm from... I knew I liked this lady!), although we're from totally opposite ends, that's ok. She misses this great state of PA for it's mountains (we do have some great scenery if you've never been here) and the good food (we can eat here in PA)

Congratulations again. Hopefully all the materials will help you and your kiddos this school year! Make 2016-2017 the best year yet!

(Just to recap--- Georgette is the lovely winner of a $20 Staples gift card, $55 in TpT resources from some GREAT TpT stores, AND nearly $30 in miscellaneous school supplies!)

To everyone who entered, thank you! Make sure you check back here often for more giveaways in the near future!

24 July 2016

Back to School Giveaway!

Back to School...

If you are a teacher those three words may be enough to induce nightmares. Although I absolutely love what I do, I also absolutely love my summers off. It's a time for me to reflect, refresh, and relax! I think most teachers feel the same way. 

Here's how I respond when someone asks me: "So, are you ready to go back to school?"

I did a little soul searching and decided to face the facts. I head back to inservice in less than 2 weeks. I'm trying to get my head around it all. There's so much I want to do! I did pick up these awesome adhesive label holders from Target's Bull's Eye Playground (or whatever they're calling it these days).

Then my teacher brain started thinking up all the cute designs for some labels to fill these babies. I came up with a nautical themed set and a rainbow colored themed set. I'm also in the process of making a beach themed set and one with kids on it (possibly Melonheadz from Scappin Doodles on TpT!) I'll post those on here as soon as they are done! If you're interested in the two below, here are the links to my store.

Click to get the Rainbow Labels

Click to get the Nautical Labels

I also have created motivational posters that I am going to print out and put into some cheap 8x10 frames and make a sort of "gallery wall" in my classroom. ( I know I need motivation at the beginning of the year... and the middle and end, and I know the kids do as well!) They're some great quotes, and I think they'd work in any classroom!

Click to get the motivational posters!

To help ease the pain I'm running a BTS giveaway!

My TpT store- $10 store credit

Creative Teaching Resources- $15 store credit

Kristin Jason- $5 store credit

Teach Me T- $5 store credit

Ashley Wright at the Wright Nook- $10 store credit

Denise Hill - $5 store credit

Toadally Exceptional Learners- $5 store credit

Enter below to win! 

Winner will be announced on Tuesday, July 26th, here on my blog, as well as on my Instagram page

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