Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: August 2016

September 11th in the Classroom

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

September 11th is a tough topic in an elementary classroom, but I have always felt that it was imperative that I discuss it with my students. I know that some teachers feel that it is too negative or will scare the kids. I agree that this is a possibility. But students will hear about September 11th one way or another. They might hear about it from a friend on the playground, from a sibling or from an older student at lunch. What they hear may or may not even be accurate. What they hear may very well scare them or confuse them. 

So I think that teachers have the very important (and tough) responsibility of making sure their students hear accurate facts. I also think, that if done correctly, we can send our students home with a sense of hope and pride. My lessons on September 11th are all about the heroes of the tragedy. Even with September 11th falling on a Sunday this year- I still feel that I have a responsibility to cover this sensitive topic!

Here is a look at the activities that I like to include in my classroom during the week leading up to September 11th.

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

There are several online videos that have been made specifically for kids. I like to show this Brain Pop video. It is short but very accurate. It has a timeline of the events from that day. It has great vocabulary too.

THIS video was made by a elementary school principal and it is amazing. He briefly talks about the devastation, but then quickly moves on to talk about heroes- both from that day and everyday local heroes. My favorite part is that he talks about the September 11th Memorial and shows lots of pictures. It ends with hope!

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

There have been several wonderful books written about September 11th and I love sharing them with my students! Here are a few of my favorites along with my Amazon affiliate link to make it easy for you to locate the books.
                                                  
Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

The book America Is Under Attack is a very factual and straightforward account of the events on September 11th. I like that it is more of a historical account rather than an emotional account. I want my students to spend time learning the facts of the day. However, the story still has some personal stories that always keep my students interested. It also has beautiful watercolor illustrations. 

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.
                                              
The book Fireboat is such a cute story! It is about a 1930s fireboat that was called back into action on September 11th. Even though the boat is not nearly as fancy as the newer boats, it proves to be a huge help in the days after the disaster. I think this is a very positive and upbeat book about hope and being brave. 

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.
                                                     
Reading the book September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right is a MUST every year. It is a great book to read right before you send them home! The book was written and illustrated by a first grade class. The message of the book is that even though our world will never be the same after September 11th, we will push forward and move on. We will be alright. Kids need to hear that! 

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

Every year my students make THIS paper bag book. It is full of stories that I researched and wrote about specific people and animals who helped to rescue others on September 11th. The stories are true and my students LOVE reading them. They are heartwarming and remind my class just how many heroes surround them. 

Students glue these stories into this simple paper bag book (just paper lunch bags folded and stapled down the spine). Then they get to illustrate each of the stories. 

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

I just love listening to the students as they discuss their illustrations and their amazement when they read the stories. It is my favorite part of the day for sure!

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

I ask my students to take the book home and share the beautiful stories and illustrations with their families. Every year I have gotten sweet thank you email from my classroom parents!

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

Nearly every year I have been blessed to have a firefighter or police officer come and talk with my class! The kids love it- even in third grade. Last year the firefighter who came into our class talked about why he chose to be a firefighter and what a hero was to him. My students enjoyed asking him questions about his job. I think it is a good way to remind students that there are heroes all around us all the time- not just on September 11th.

Utilizing books, videos, paper bag books and visiting firefighter or police officer will help your students understand September Eleventh.

Getting a firefighter or police officer to come talk to your class is usually pretty easy. If you have a student whose parent works for fire or police, they are a good place to start. Otherwise, call your local departments. Many have special officers and firefighters who regularly talk to students.


I know that this is a very sensitive subject to cover in the classroom, but I hope these ideas make it a bit easier. I applaud you for your hard work! You are heroes everyday!



Improving the Quality of Student Work in Centers


I love centers. And so do my students. We do math and reading centers every day. Centers can be an incredibly valuable time in your classroom- or it can just be a time filler. If students are not producing quality independent work, then it is not a good use of time. Here are a few tips for improving the quality of student work in centers.

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Too often I see teachers rush into centers. They don't take nearly enough time showing students what they expect. Show students how you want the center to look. Show students where materials are stored. Show them how they should read the directions. And, most importantly, show them what a quality answer will look like. Show them where work should be turned in and what they should do if they finish early. Model how transitions will happen. Show students how to clean up their materials. It takes me a couple of weeks to properly train students to do centers independently. But the rest of the year, I don't have to worry about using class time to reprimand students about behavior during centers. They are doing quality work while I am meeting with guided groups for much needed differentiation. It is worth every bit of effort from the start!

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success
If the centers and the expectations for the centers are changing every week, students are far less likely to be successful. I keep my reading centers the same all year! Once I teach the expectations, I rarely have to revisit them. (My reading centers are: Read to Self, Reading Response Menus, Technology and Meet the Teacher.) My math center topics will change, but the overall center does not. They might do fraction centers one month and measurement the next- but the overall expectations and directions are the same every month. (My math centers are Technology, Math Facts, Independent Work and Meet the Teacher.)

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

There is the temptation to make centers coordinate with the skills a teacher is currently teaching. I discourage this. If students are just learning a skill, they are less likely to be successful with it in an independent center. Instead, I like to use independent centers for spiral review. My students might be doing the measurement centers while we are working on fractions. This is ok! They need the review and they are more likely to be successful on their own.

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

We all do better on a task when we have some choice! If you really want students to be invested in their center work, make certain that centers have a certain amount of choice. For example, my students can read ANY book that they want during their Read to Self center. They can choose between 9 prompts for their Reading Menu center and they can do their independent math centers in any order that they choose. A little choice can go a long way!

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success
I have found that when I allow students to work together, the quality of their work increases dramatically. I don't allow students to work together on every assignment, but I do encourage collaboration often. Before allowing students to work together on a center, you must model the expectations. This is done similarly to the way I model expectations for each center. What will the group work sound like? How will students participate? What will happen if students disagree? Take plenty of time going over these expectations. Ask students to model correct and incorrect group behaviors for the class. This takes time! But working together is a life skill that needs to be taught and practiced! And once the class is able to properly collaborate, you will see improvements in their overall center work and you will know that the time was well worth it.
You might want to grab these FREE posters to help remind students of ways they can independently solve differences when working with a partner.

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success
Giving students a visual reminder of your expectations will help them to check their work. The rubric can be a simple checklist or a bulletin board with examples. This will depend on your student needs and the grade you teach. 

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success
Time in the classroom is so precious that it can be difficult to allow time for students to correct their mistakes. However, mistakes are only worth making if we can learn from them. When you hand back work, can you allow students one day to make corrections? Can they take it home to correct? Can you go over the answers as a whole group? You don't have to change their grade in the grade book if you don't want to. But, students will be more motivated if they think they can get extra points or another incentive. The most important thing is that students are spending time analyzing their mistakes. 

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

I have found that students will work ten times harder if they know they will be rewarded for their hard work. This reward can be as simple as stickers on their papers or a quick note home to Mom and Dad. My students are also obsessed with brag tags and they work so hard for the opportunity to earn one. You can read more about how I use brag tags in my classroom by clicking HERE.

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success.


I hope that these tips will help you to make the most of your valuable center time! You might also be interested in the posts about my reading and math centers:

Taking the time to model your centers, teach procedures, have the centers consistent, have spiral review, student choice, collaboration, provide a rubric, allow time for corrections and celebrate success





Clothes for the Teacher


I absolutely LOVE clothes, but I am a terrible shopper! I want new clothes, but I am not too great at picking out clothes that look good on me and are comfortable. Back to school shopping is always a challenge for me. For this reason, I am super excited to have a stylist who sends pieces right to my house for me to try on! 

I use a service called Stitch Fix. I filled out a survey about the clothes I like, put in my measurements and now my stylist- Brooke- sends about five pieces to me each month. I try the pieces on and keep the ones that I like the most. Any that I don't like, I put in the prepaid envelope that Brooke sends and throw it in the mail. It is super simple! I love getting new and trendy clothes every month without ever having to go to the mall. And it is so simple to just keep what I want and return the rest. 

Since I am not much of a fashionista, Brooke sends me style cards that show different ways to wear the pieces that she send me.


Click HERE if you want to try Stitch Fix and get a stylist for yourself!

I am often asked about the prices of the pieces. If you are a thrifty clothing shopper, then this might not be the service for you. However, I have found some ways to get the clothes at a very reasonable price. First, you get to tell your stylist your budget for different pieces. So if you don't like spending much on shirts, but are more willing to pay for good jeans- you can tell her that. Also, after you sign up, you will be given a referral code. You can post a picture of your fix and the referral code on your Facebook or IG. If your friends and family schedule a fix, Stitch Fix will give you $25 to put towards your next fix. And there are no limits! I have gotten free clothes! And these clothes are a super high quality that I know I couldn't find at a discount store.

I did a Facebook Live video today where I showed my latest Stitch Fix delivery. 



I ended up keeping the navy blue striped maxi dress and I am SO happy that I did! It is very comfortable and the stripes actually make me look quite thin! Every single time that I wear it, I get a handful of compliments! One time I was in Target and a guy stopped to tell me he liked the dress. Too funny! 


Here are a few pictures of some of the pieces that I have kept from my last several fixes.


I am not a blue person. But when I saw this piece in the box, I was drawn to the cobalt. As soon as I put the shirt on, I knew I had to have it! It fit perfectly and it super comfortable! It is perfect for school or for a date night!


Every wardrobe needs some good neutral pieces. I wore it with my jeans, but I am also looking forward to wearing it with some of my colored jeggings.  I really like the grommets on this black blouse. It is very unique! And the back is super cute!


I think I would need a cardigan for school, but then I can take the cardigan off and be ready for happy hour or a dinner date with the hubby! 


I have never owned a kimono! It is so fun! I love the way it flows while I walk. It makes me feel feminine and fancy, even though I am super comfy! The colors are perfect for fall!

I love that I can tell my stylist what types of pieces I am looking for, what events I have coming up, and my price range. I even gave her a link to my fashion Pinterest board and she uses the pins to help guide her choices for me. I live in Phoenix where it is still very warm and I just let my stylist know that I needed light pieces. She sends me a mix of things I would have picked myself and things that I never would have considered, but end up loving. My wardrobe is more unique and fun now! 

Click HERE if you want to try Stitch Fix for yourself! 


Open House & Back to School Night: Tips and Tricks to Get Organized



Yesterday I went live on Facebook to talk about how I keep my open house organized. You can watch the video replay here.


Are you ready to make your open house paperless? Check out this tutorial.


Click below to download my FREE open house signs. They are editable!