Sunday, September 24, 2017

Creating a Vocabulary Rich Environment in Your Classroom

Creating a classroom environment in which words are loved, valued, and enjoyed is an important way to help students discover and use new vocabulary. When students see your love for vocabulary and are immersed each day in a word-rich classroom, their personal vocabularies will increase. Here are a few suggestions to help you create a word-rich environment in your classroom. (Continue reading for a freebie for your classroom!)


Share your favorite words.

Talk about why special words are important and interesting to you. Invite students to share their favorites. (Personally, I love the words gossamer, luminescence, eloquence, ominous,  and zephyr-which happens to be the name of the first car I owned.)

Apply sophisticated words in the classroom.

Use sophisticated words with your students. For example, ask students to illustrate instead of draw, tidy, instead of clean, collect, instead of take up. Talk about the din, raucous, or  cacophony of noises heard in the hall or lunchroom. My favorite sophisticated word to use with my class was just a happy accident. After reading the word accolade in a story with my class, I now record on the board any accolades that my students receive from other teachers or adults in our school. My students now know and use the word accolade every day

Play games and do fun vocabulary activities.

Visit my Upper Elementary blog post on 10 Engaging Vocabulary Activities that your students will love. Find fun vocabulary activities for your classroom.

Vocabulary Spotters

My students love spotting vocabulary words that we have learned in class in their library books and personal books. Encourage this vocabulary search by making a big deal when words are found. Give brag tags for Vocabulary Spotters (freebie found here or click the image below) and students will search diligently for these words.




Varying vocabulary instruction and activities will help keep lessons new, fresh, and exciting for your students. For more ideas on creating a vocabulary-rich environment in your classroom, visit my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Seven Fun Ways to Use Index Cards in the Classroom

I don't know why I like index cards so much. I mean, I like them almost as much as Post-Its, pretty note cards and papers, and fancy notebooks. Yes, I admit, I hoard index cards! No, they are not very pretty or fancy, but they are the perfect size for so many quick and easy classroom activities that are sure to get your students motivated. Also, they are so inexpensive that it is easy to keep a lot on hand.


I realize that technology is all the craze in classrooms across the country. In fact, I am so proud to be a 1:1 classroom this year! I love technology, and my students love it, too! Even with all of the technology that we have available, I think it is important to provide students with a variety of fun activities to keep them motivated and excited about learning, and sometimes, even a simple index card can generate excitement in a lesson. Here are 7 ideas for using these inexpensive little cards.

1. Two Truths and a Fib.

 I have used this activity for many years on the first day of school, but this is also a great way to continue to get to know one another throughout the year. It is also is a fun way to cover some of the Common Core speaking and listening standards. If you have never played this fun activity, give each student an index card and instruct her to write 2 truths about herself and 1 fib. Then let each student share all three statements with the class and call on a classmate to guess the fib. You can also use this as an after activity for a lesson by having students list 2 truths and 1 fib about a topic they just learned or read about. Let them share with a small group and have group members tell the fib about the topic. This is a great closing for a lesson or unit of study.

2. Random Name Picker

I realize there are wonderful and cute random name pickers on the web that are fun for the students, but sometimes as teachers, we just don't have time for all of that! Give each student an index card and instruct him/her to write his/her name in bold letters. Then draw and color pictures around to decorate the card. Take up the index cards to store in a container all year. Then, the next time you need to quickly and randomly select a student, simply draw one of these cards. Use these throughout the entire school year.

3. Student Passwords

O.K. This idea is not so much fun as it is a necessity. I don't know if your school is like mine, but my poor students have at least a half a dozen passwords that they are suppose to keep up with. To help them out, we have printed out passwords on stickers and placed on index cards for each student. These index cards are kept in special containers or in the students folders (depending on how often the passwords are needed). This has helped us out tremendously and kept searching for passwords to a minimum.

4. Yes/NO Cards


Let each student write "Yes" on one side of an index card and "No" on the other. Use these cards as a quick wrap up to a lesson or a quick review. Call out a question related to the topic of study that has a yes or no answer. Students hold up the card to show the correct answer. You can quickly assess who understands and who may need to be pulled for small group instruction. True and false cards can also be made and used the same way.

5. Sequence Strips



Use index cards to create a fun way to review sequence. After a read aloud, give students 4 index cards. On the first, write the title and on the other 3 write the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story. These make a great hall or bulletin board display! Read more about this fun activity here.

6. Vocabulary Strips


Give each student an index card. Students should draw a diagonal line from the bottom left corner to the top right corner. On the top left side, students will write the vocabulary word and definition. On the bottom right side, students should draw a picture of the vocabulary word and use the word in a sentence. Just like the activity above, students can complete 3 or 4 cards and glue on a long strip of construction paper to display in the hall or on a bulletin board. This is a fun way for students to review vocabulary.

7. Reading Response Activity


Your students will enjoy summarizing a read aloud, a book from lit circles, or a book from independent reading when you give them an index card and one half of a 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper. Let them draw a scene from the book on the piece of paper and write a summary of the book on the index card. Then simply attach the index card to the paper for a quick and easy hall display.

Certainly, there are many other ways that index cards can be used in the classroom. I hope you have found one or two here that you may want to try with your class!

Have a blessed day!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Classroom Reveal

Decorating our classroom, to me, is something that I enjoy each year. I like making a room inviting and colorful for my students. Already this year, I have had students comment on our classroom decorations. My goal this year was to keep it simple by using the same color scheme as last year, but I wanted to change things up slightly. By doing this, I was able to save time and money which to me is a win-win!  I am very pleased with the outcome, and I hope you enjoy this peek into my classroom.

Cactus themed motivational bulletin board.




I love how my motivational board turned out! This set of motivational posters are available in my TpT! Find them here.


This is my reading nook and classroom library. Above this nook is my focus board where I will post the reading skill and focus strategy for each week.









Sunday, August 6, 2017

Four Fabulous Ideas for Establishing Classroom Rules and Procedures

With the beginning of the school year racing toward us, teachers are in high gear getting their rooms and materials ready for a new group of kiddos. One important part of preparation is having a plan for classroom rules and procedures. We want students to know our expectations and meet those expectations so that our classrooms will run smoothly this year and our precious students will have an opportunity to have a wonderful year. Here are four ideas for establishing those rules and procedures.





We know that simply telling students that they should be "good" is not going to "cut it" in the classroom.  Students need specific guidance.  To help students understand and to give specific guidance, I chose one adjective to describe my expectations. The word that I chose was "calm."  On the first day of school, I simply spoke to my students about my expectations for them.  I told them that I like a calm classroom.   Even when we are working with groups or partners, having a whole group discussion, or even walking down the hall, I expect my students to be calm.  We can still have fun, play a game, or do group work while behaving in a calm manner. We talked about what calm looks like, sounds like, and acts like.  Of course, every teacher is different. Your classroom and personality may be different from mine, and that's ok. Perhaps you want to choose another word to focus on such as "respectful" or "kind." You could even have more than one! Think about your expectations and choose a specific adjective or two that works for you and your classroom that will help guide your students to excellent behavior.



Actually take the time to model expectations for the students. Explain to the students what each activity should look like and sound like, then practice, practice, practice. Practice transition times. Practice restroom procedures. Practice exchanging classes and getting materials together. We actually do this in my classroom. Our grade level exchanges classes, but we don't exchange the first day or two. This gives us some time to practice. I actually take time to practice how to exchange, how to get materials together, how to line up, and how to stand in the hall to wait to walk to the next class. Practice lunchroom behavior, etc. Begin the first day of school, but continue to model throughout the entire year. Your students will still need reminders throughout the year.



Post your expectations or rules in your classroom so that students will have a visual reminder of classroom expectations. Students need these visual reminders daily. Charts, posters, or bulletin boards can provide this. I personally prefer to use motivational posters instead of classroom rules. I like how motivational posters remind students in a positive way and challenge the students to be their best. As an added bonus, they serve as motivation for myself as well. Sometimes I need a little reminder, too. Whether you use motivational posters or classroom rules, expectations should be posted as a visual reminder for your students. Here are a few examples in my TpT store that you may love!

These Farmhouse Themed Motivational Posters are perfect for encouraging positive behavior as well as adding a rustic touch to your classroom.







We cannot explain classroom expectations only on the first day of school, never mention them again, and expect our students to follow them perfectly throughout the rest of the year. That will just not work. Students will need reminders of your classroom expectations, whether it is part of a daily morning routine, a read around the room activity, or a daily or weekly discussion of behavior expectations. We all need reminders now and then.

Have a blessed school year!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

14 Fabulous Time Fillers for Language Arts

We have all been there (no matter how long you have taught or how well you have planned a lesson). You have just finished a fantastic lesson. Everything went as planned and the students were highly engaged, but you glance at the clock and you have 5 or maybe 10 minutes left before time to transition to lunch, music, or to exchange classes (if you are departmentalized). Now you think, "What should I do now?" For times like these it is great to have easy time fillers on hand or in your back pocket ready to use. Because I teach reading, writing, and grammar,  I am going to share 14 Fabulous Time Fillers for language arts. Of course, at at the top of the list for time fillers in language arts would be independent reading and/or reading aloud to the students. It is so easy to simply say, "Take out your independent reading and read,"  but it is also great to have a variety of activities ready to use. Here are 14 time fillers that take only 5 to 10 minutes that will review previously learned concepts, motivate your students to read, or engage your students thinking.



1. Share an idiom and its meaning. Not only is this a great time filler that students will enjoy, but it is a great way to help review a skill that your students need.

2. Call out a word and have students tell the part of speech. You may want to limit the parts of speech to 3 or 4 at a time. For example, you may want to let the students know that the words will be nouns, verbs or adjectives; or they may be verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, or pronouns.

3. Have students write a simple poem such as a haiku or an acrostic poem.

4. Have students to write a sentence containing alliteration. This could be a fun tongue twister.

5. Show a Grammar Rock video from Teacher Tube. Here is the link to the collection.

6. Create and display a partial metaphor or metaphors. Have students complete or make suggestions on how to complete each one. For example:
     He was so mad, he was a ____________________. (raging bull, steaming tea kettle)
     He was a ________________, hidden by the darkness of the night. (ghost, dark shadow)
     As the storm grew worse, the rain turned to ___________________. (rocks pounding on my head)

7. Have students complete the sentences by using personification.
     The wind _____________________________________.
     The car ______________________________________.
     The sun ______________________________________.

8. Show book trailers from SchoolTube. There are several choices available to show such as Wonder  and Hatchet.  This one for One and Only Ivan is very good.

9. Watch and listen to a book being read by an actor on Storyline Online. Several of these are over 10 minutes time, so just jot down the time that you get to and finish watching it another day when time allows.

10. Give a book talk about one of your favorite books from your classroom shelf that you think your students will enjoy reading independently. Share the book blurb from the back of the book and why you like the book. Ask your students who wants to read it, and watch the hands go flying up. Pick someone who gets to read it independently. This is a great way to motivate those who are struggling with finding a book for independent reading.

11. Have students to list the alphabet down their paper. Then give them 3 minutest to write one noun that begins with each letter. (ex: apple, bear, cake, dinosaur) You can also do this with verbs or adjectives.

12. Have a quick review of irregular verbs. Write 5-10 irregular verbs on the board. Have students write the past and past participle for each one. For example:
     run    ran      run
     sing   sang   sung

13. Use this free set of cards to review "there, they're, and their." This easy activity is a great way to have a quick review of these confusing words.

Pirate Homophones:  They're, There, and Their

14. For a quick review of similes, metaphors, and personification, use this fun "Show Me the Card" activity. If you like the free activity above, you'll love this activity too!

Figurative Language Show Me the Card Activity:Similes, Metaphors,Personification

I hope you enjoy these ideas and find a few that will be helpful to you and your kiddos!



Have a blessed day!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tips for Using Collaborative Conversations in the Elementary Classroom

Collaborative conversations in the classroom can be characterized as listening and speaking strategies in which students participate in discussions with varied partners. Through these collaborations, the goal is for students to learn to build on one another's ideas in order to express their own ideas clearly. Whether or not your state uses Common Core Standards, we as teachers probably all agree that effective communication skills are important for our students to learn. We want our students to be capable of sharing ideas, validating opinions, and citing evidence to support argument. When we incorporate collaborative conversations into our lessons, students will gain these vital communication skills.

Tips for Using Collaborative Conversations in the Elementary Classroom

Benefits of Using Collaborative Conversations 

When we incorporate collaborative conversations into our  routine, not only will our students become good communicators, we will see many other benefits as well. Benefits include:
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of the text through discussion and citing evidence.
  • Students learn to make connections between reading, listening, and speaking.
  • Students learn to work in groups.
  • Students work with peers to ask questions, clarify meaning, compare and contrast, and analyze and synthesize information.
  • Students learn to build on other's ideas to gain deeper understanding of texts and topics.
  • Students develop career and college readiness skills.
  • Students learn to share and support opinions.
  • Students become good communicators.

Examples of Collaborative Conversations

  • Turn and Talk- This is probably the most common form and simplest to use. Once a question is posed, students simply turn to a partner to discuss. This is a very effective strategy for elementary grades. Using stem sentences also helps students speak in complete sentences. For example, if you ask, "What was one problem in the story?" Give the students the stem,"One problem in the story is________."
  • Think-Pair-Share- This strategy is very similar to Turn and Talk, but it involves writing. Once a question is posed, give students a moment to jot down an answer (think). Then have students turn to their partner and tell the answer they wrote (pair, share).
  • Round Robin- Students are divided into groups. Each group member shares ideas verbally about a topic. Group members share in order, without interruption, discussions, or questions until everyone has an opportunity to share.
  • Numbered Heads-Students are divided into groups of 4. Each group is given a number. The teacher asks a question and tells students to make sure everyone in the group can answer. After time is given for discussion, the teacher spins a spinner or draws a number (1 thru 4). The teacher then announces the number. Students have one more minute to make sure the student with that number can answer the question correctly. Finally, the teacher spins or draws and announces the number of the group that must answer. 
Of course, there are many other options for collaborative conversations. These are just a few of my personal favorites. 

Desks Arrangements to Encourage Collaborative Conversations

I love setting up my classroom to enhance and encourage collaborative conversations from the beginning of the year by placing pairs of  desks close together so that everyone has an elbow partner. To be truthful, I usually start slowly. What I mean is, I like to begin with partner collaboration and model one strategy at a time. Once a strategy is modeled several times, we then practice using this strategy many times before adding a new strategy. Although it is great to have flexible partners, I usually assign partners until students are very familiar with the process, routine, and expectations.

Once the class has mastered partners (turn and talk/think-pair-share), then I like to rearrange my desks into groups of four (or five depending on the number of my students). We then work with eyeball partners and elbow partners. Once that is mastered, we begin group conversations such as round robin and numbered heads.

By scaffolding these strategies, students know classroom expectations during conversations. Once routines are clearly established to eliminate any potential behavior problems, the focus can be on increasing learning through effective conversation.

What is your favorite collaborative conversation strategy?

Blessings!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

End of the Year Activities

The end of the school year can be filled with so many emotions: relief, a little sadness, anticipation, anxiety to squeeze in all of the curriculum, and a lot of excitement (even from the teachers). With the year winding down, it is a perfect time to plan some fun and memorable activities for your kiddos. Here are a few ideas.
Here are some great end of the year activities that you and your students will love!

Time to Reflect

Take time to reflect on the year with this easy prep activity. Have students sit in a circle. Use a Random Name Selector (such as the one here) or simply toss a bean bag. Begin by selecting a name  or tossing a bean bag to a student. The person chosen should share a memory from the school year. Continue selecting or tossing. Each student selected should tell a memory without repeating one that has already been shared.

Have a Game Day

The end of the year is a perfect time to review everything that your students have learned this year, and what is a better way to review than to play games? Pull out games that you have used at centers, task cards that can be used with purchased game boards, and divide the students into groups. Give each group a game and let the fun begin! If time allows, rotate games and start again. This is a perfect way to review and have some fun at the same time.

Sidewalk Chalk

Even big kids love sidewalk chalk, but why not make this activity more than just drawing a picture? Let it be a review of what your students have learned this year. Take your students outside to the nearest school sidewalk, give each group sidewalk chalk, and ask each group to draw a mural related to something that they have learned this year. Students can create murals depicting topics they have studied in science or social studies.

End of the Year Party

Even from my own elementary days, I remember some of our end of the year parties and celebrations. They were a special time. One way that my coworkers and I enjoy making this time special is by having a biscuit brunch for our students. We have a local fast food that serves great biscuits, and they are happy to help us with our plans. We usually pre-order our biscuits and run through the drive through on the morning of our brunch to pick them up. We serve them juice. This is always a hit with our students.

End of the Year Memory Book

A memory book is a great activity for those days when students can't wait to get out of school, but it is also a great keepsake for your students. Plus, parents love these precious keepsakes!

Your students will love this end of the year memory book/posters.

The last few weeks of school we work to complete the pages from my Owl About My School Year End of the Year Activities packet. Students absolutely love completing these pages and reflecting on the school year. Click on the picture above to visit my TpT store to purchase, or enter to win this packet by clicking on the Rafflecopter below to enter for a chance to win this memory book along with a $10 TpT gift card.


I have teamed up with he wonderful bloggers listed above for a fabulous end of the school year giveaway! Don't miss out! Beginning May 8th, be sure to enter to win a $100 gift card from Target! Yes, $100!! Leave a comment below that you have entered, and be sure to complete all of the requirements to be eligible for the $100 Target gift card. Once you have completed the Rafflecopter, click the link below to visit the next blog in order to complete all requirements for this fantastic giveaway! Remember, giveaway begins May 8th and continues through May 13th!


Have a blessed day!