Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: October 2017

Are you getting the most out of your Scholastic book order?


My favorite part of teaching was always to help a student to discover their love for reading. It felt like the greatest honor. Once a student grows that love for reading, I know that I have made a forever impact. 

The number one way to help a kiddo learn to love to read (according to me 😜) is to introduce them to tons of books. I want to surround them with possibilities. 

But that costs money. And money is something that teachers do not have a lot of.

In THIS post, I wrote about some ways that I grew my classroom library on a limited budget. My very favorite way was by using Scholastic book orders

Do you use Scholastic book orders in your classroom? Are you getting the most out of your orders? Are you earning points and filling your library with engaging and fee books?

Let me give you some tips to help you earn more bonus points that can be used to put books in the hands of your students.

1. Get Your Students Involved

I have received emails from parents that are crazy excited because their reluctant reader is begging them to buy a book from the book order. That is magic!

Get your students excited about the book order.

First, set aside 10-15 minutes each month for students to look at the book order forms together. Let them point books out to their neighbors. Let them talk about the books that they see. Encourage them to circle books that are on their wish list. Some students won't take the time to do this at home, so make time for it during class.

I also like to have them write one book each on a sticky note. This becomes our class wishlist. I use this list when choosing which books to order with all of my bonus points!

Another great way to get students involved and excited is to keep a tally of the number of books that have been ordered by the class each month.

Laminate THIS poster and hang it somewhere where students can see. 


Use a dry erase marker to update the number of books each day. You can even set a goal and celebrate as the class gets closer. The reward will be new books from the wishlist!

When you get your students involved in the book order, they get excited. When students are excited about ordering books, you are WINNING! And it usually means that more books will be ordered and more points will be earned for free books.

2. One reminder is NOT enough!

Parents are so busy. They have full-time jobs, church commitments and multiple kids with extra curricular activities and different teachers. Help them out and give them several reminders.

  • I like to send an email home on the day that the order forms go home. 
  • I add the deadline to our weekly newsletter. 
  • I send a book order email reminder again 2-3 days before orders are due. 
  • On the day before the deadline, I send kiddos home with one of THESE reminder bracelets. All you have to do is pint them, cut and then staple around the kiddos' wrists on their way out the door.



  • I also send a quick reminder through Remind texts. 


You are not bugging parents. You are helping them out!

The more orders that get turned in, the more points the class will earn and that means more books!

3. Refer all of your teacher friends.

Did you know that you get extra bonus points for referring new teachers to open a Scholastic account? At the time of publishing, you could earn an extra 250 points per teacher that signed up with your referral code.

So make sure everyone on your team is signed up. Check with new teachers. Help them to earn free books for their classroom too!

4. I love monthly specials.

Every month, Scholastic has special offers. They are REALLY good offers!

Sometimes they are extra bonus points. Sometimes it is a box of free books! 

Make sure that you check each month to see what special they are running. There is usually a minimum purchase necessary to get the special, but this can be the class goal!

5. Dollar books are a teacher's second best friend.

I am crazy in love with free books. But I am also a HUGE fan of dollar books. 

Every month, scholastic has a selection of books that are on sale for just $1. And these are good books that you and your students actually want to read! 

Stock up on dollar books for book raffles, books clubs and student gifts.

You can find the dollar titles on the front covers of the order forms.



I hope that this helps you to score some free (or almost free) books for your classroom library. More than anything I hope that these books help to get your students excited about reading! #bookwormsunite


Have a Not So Wimpy day!



4 Ways to Conquer the No Name Papers


No Name papers are a teacher's nemesis. They rank right up there with broken copy machines and glue sticks without lids. 😩

How do we handle No Name papers? How can we get our dear students to write their name on the line that clearly says, "NAME"? 

I asked the teachers in my third grade Facebook group these very questions. They came up with several fantastic ideas for you to try! So pick one or two that sound perfect for your group of kiddos!

1. Reminder Sign

Do you have a place in your classroom where students go to turn in their work? Try putting a reminder sign right on the turn in try. I like to put it right in the way, so kids have to move the sign to turn in the paper. 


You can click HERE to grab my sign for free.

2. Highlighting

Using a highlighter can be a great way to eliminate those No Name papers. Put highlighters in supply caddies or have each kiddo keep a highlighter in their desk. After they write their name, they are required to highlight it.


My favorite part of this strategy is that when students see their classmates getting out the highlighter, it reminds them to write their name on the paper and highlight it.

It's like peer pressure. But the good kind.

3. Name Checkers

Are you sick and tired of being the one that has to ask students to put their name on every paper? Why not make that one of your student jobs?



Assign two students to be the name checkers. A minute after students start working, they get up and walk around the room checking that names are on every paper. 

My job cards are also in that free file with the posters from above!

4. Stand Up

This is a great strategy if you are having a real big No Name problem in your classroom!

Every time you pass out a paper, students should stand after they have written their name on the paper. Once the entire class is standing, you will motion for them to sit down so that they can begin working.

Hopefully, you can do this for a while and then slowly phase it out as they get used to writing their name on papers. 

Or maybe you have to do it all year.... 😜


Hopefully one of these strategies will help solve the No Name paper problem in your classroom!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!


How do you teach writing?


How do you teach writing?

Do you have any idea how many people ask me this question every week? I think they ask so often because writing is so darn hard to teach. Am I right? 🙌🏻

Everyone is hoping that I have some magic fairy dust that I can sprinkle on their students' notebooks that will magically create complete sentences, paragraphs and well thought out responses. 

I have some bad news...

There is no magic fairy writing dust. #sosorry

But I do have some good news...

I have screwed up teaching writing for so long, that I have learned a few things that actually improved my students' writing! Good news for me, right?! Would you like for me to share? #ofcourse

So here is my version of the magic fairy dust...

Teach writing in units of study. #seriously


Huh? What are you talking about, Jamie?

Let me explain... 

Some teachers spend a few days working on an informational report for science. Then they have their kids spend a couple days writing a letter to the local fire department. Next, they spend a week on an opinion project that they found on TpT. They go back and forth from one genre of writing to the next.

Does this sound like you?

Well stop it!!!

You don't get good at something by doing it for a few days and then moving on to a new skill. That is just teasing. 

Students need to practice a writing genre for an extended time so that they can master the skill before moving on. Every type of writing has different skills that are needed. For example: narrative writing requires dialogue, opinion writing requires evidence, informational writing requires research. Some skills remain a constant, like writing a lead, but others change based on the style.

They need lessons specific to that type of writing. They need to see modeling. They need guided practice and they need independent practice. 

If you teach it thoroughly, they are so much more likely to remember how to do it when that nasty test comes along.


Here is the order of the units that I taught in third grade in a Common Core(ish) state:

1. Personal Narrative

I would start with this because everyone already knows a story about themselves. It does not require any research. It is also a great way to get to know my new students.

2. Informational

I move on to informational because I need students to master this one early. We will do informational writing, reading and research all year in science and social studies.

3. Opinion or Persuasive

This is actually my very favorite type of writing. Kids love to write about their opinion! I do this after the informational unit because fantastic opinion pieces require research and I teach that in the informational unit.

4. Fiction Narrative

I end my year with fiction stories. I do this because they are super fun and the perfect way to end the year after all of that dreaded testing. 

Don't tell kids what they have to write about!


If you want to see your students' writing improve dramatically, stop telling them what they have to write about! Seriously, no one likes to be told what they HAVE to do. Give them choice. 

Story time...

I hate snakes. I live in the desert, but I can proudly boast that I have NEVER seen a snake in the wild.  (Knock on wood.) I hate snakes so much that I refuse to go in the reptile exhibit at the zoo. I would send my kids in alone. No Mom of the Year award for me!

If you told me that I had to write an informational report about snakes, I would pee my pants. I'm NOT looking up facts about snakes! There will be pictures! I will have nightmares! 

Trust me...it's going to be one sad and pathetic report. 

I love my Golden Retriever. Cash is the most handsome dog ever. I know that you think your dog is handsome, but he's not as handsome as my dog. For real.


He's so intelligent and I love the way that he protects his family. I would totally geek out on a report about Golden Retrievers. I would want to read books about them and look at every website I could find. I bet my report would rock. 

Your students are just like me.

Well not JUST like me.... #thankgoodness

Your students have interests. When you let them write about something that excites them, they will produce their best work. 

My only rule about writing topics is that the topic must fit in the unit of study that we are currently working on. So the Golden Retriever report would have to wait until we got to the informational report unit.

Share and Celebrate Writing ALL THE TIME!


Give your students a reason to want their writing to improve! 

First, writers need to share their work. Otherwise, why write? I know that lots of teachers do an author share chair where one kid comes up and reads their story. I'm sorry to burst your bubble---but that's kinda boring for everyone else. #truthbomb

Plus, only one person is sharing. The others have to wait a couple of weeks before they get to share. That is NOT motivating.

Let your authors share every day. They don't need complete published pieces to be able to share. At the end of your writing time, have kiddos turn to a partner and share something that they added to their piece. It can be a sentence that they are proud of or even something they are struggling with.


Lots (not all) of students will be more motivated to write if they know that they will need/get to share their writing with someone.

Besides sharing, make sure that you are actually celebrating your writers. 

At the end of a unit, have a writing celebration.

Maybe students can be stars for the day! Have them come dressed up. Roll out the red carpet. Students walk the carpet while you take pictures. They will take their place at the mic and share their published piece. The crowd will go wild! (Holding an applause sign will ensure this.)

Maybe you can invite families for an open house where writing is displayed for everyone. Or even invite a buddy class and share writing with each other.

Have you ever thrown a writing pajama party? Everyone loves a bedtime story! Lay out some pillows and blankets, dim the lights and let your authors be the readers. 

The point is....have fun! If it is fun, students will naturally want to improve. 

They will be excited for the next celebration! You can count down the days on the board and keep the specifics a secret until that day. Build it up!

The Secret Sauce


Although I cannot magically turn your students into award winning authors, I can make it just a tad bit easier to teach writing in your classroom!


I have writing units that include EVERYTHING you need to teach fun and meaningful units of study. 
  • lesson plans
  • anchor charts
  • student printables
  • mentor text passages
  • task cards
  • videos
  • rubrics
  • celebration ideas
and MORE!

All you have to add is the excitement and the sharpened pencils. No fairy dust necessary!






Have a Not So Wimpy day!


Flexible Seating


Well hello all you Not So Wimpy fans!!  I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be a guest blogger on the Not So Wimpy blog.  I am Amanda Quisenberry and I teach 3rd grade for a wonderful school in West Texas (GO PIRATES).  I am married and have three fantastic kids who are growing up way too fast.  I am just starting my 5th year in the classroom, and I still can’t believe how blessed I am to get to do what I do everyday.  

I never thought in one million (word form) years that I would ever be asked to write for Jamie’s blog.  Why you ask?  First of all, I DON’T WRITE.  Anything, ever.  I almost didn’t apply for graduate school because the 500 word essay totally freaked me out.  However, if you teach in Texas, then you are familiar with T-TESS and all that that implies.  

Anywho, my personal goal this year is to implement Writer’s Workshop, which is why I stumbled upon Jamie’s blog one sunny day in June, and my life has not been the same since.  Seriously, now I actually print things in color. I also thought if I expect my kids to write, then I guess I better write, too.  So when Jamie asked for people to submit our names and ideas, I jumped at the chance.  With both feet.  Into sub zero waters.  Without a life jacket.  

But I made it, and I am here to tell you all about how I utilize flexible seating in my classroom.

STOP!!  DON’T RUN AWAY!

Many teachers shudder at the thought of flexible seating.  I did too at one point, but I am here to tell you, if it is done right, it can be a game changer.  Let’s go back to July 2016 when I first jumped on the flexible seating bandwagon.  I bought really cute chairs from Target and a couple of yoga balls.  I stuck those suckers out there and called it done.  Sounds good, right?  What could possibly be wrong with this scenario.  

Ummmm, WHAT IS RIGHT WITH THIS SCENARIO?!?  For starters, I did not put any type of system into place for who was going to get to sit in the fun seats and when.  I mean, they are mature 3rd graders, they should be able to handle this.  Let’s just say that within two weeks I had given all the “fun” (notice my use of quotations this time) seats away.  

However, I was bound and determined to find a way to make it work.  I obsessed all summer long about how to implement a functional flexible seating arrangement for the new school year and by golly, I think I’ve got it.  

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART

Some may think the most important part might be the actual seating, but for me, that was the easiest to tackle.  I kept 7 desks as is, took the legs off 3 desks, bought some kid friendly beach chairs on clearance at Target, 3 lap desks from Michael’s, and found a fun round table in storage at my school.  Flexible seating options done!!  

Now, what do I do with all of this?  Anyone who knows me will probably tell you I am uber organized and structured so the idea of NOT having assigned seats was something I could not wrap my brain around.  How do I manage who sits where?  What do I do with those kids who just aren’t making the right choice?  Do I get rid of all my desks?  So many questions and so few answers.  

Last year, our school stopped using SmartBoards and this was how I held my kids accountable for taking their own attendance.  I am pretty sure I was late on attendance everyday.  You see, prior to that, my kids all had a balloon that they could “pop” when they arrived.  Whoever’s balloon wasn’t popped was absent, and I desperately wanted to get back to the kids doing something to mark their attendance.  The only thought that kept coming to me was clothespins.  And then it hit me like my 3rd pregnancy did.  

Why not combine attendance with the ability for the kids to choose their own seats? Thus the Flexible Seating and Attendance chart was born.  I am taking suggestions for a better name.

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Here are some of the pictures from the chart that is hanging in my room.  I actually have five other choices as well, but I figured you would get the idea with just these pictures.  As you can see, there is a picture of that choice with the rules a student is expected to follow if they choose that seat.  The numbers represent how many kids can pick that choice.  Each student has a clothespin with his or her name on it that is clipped to the left side of the chart.  

The chart hangs right inside my door so the first thing the kids do when they come in in the mornings is move their clip over to the other side and place it on a number to show they are present and what seating option they are choosing for that day.  If someone comes in and wants the RelaxiRug but both numbers are covered, then that choice is not longer available.  Bummer. This has actually worked great for me.  I have not had any issues with kids moving other kids clips or fighting over seats.  

“BUT MRS. Q, I AM ALWAYS LATE...I don’t ever get to choose what I want.”

At my school the doors open for students to come into the building at 7:15.  For those kids that arrive that early, they must go sit in the cafeteria until the first bell rings at 7:45.  Now, I do have some kids whose parents show up right around 7:40 and they are allowed to just hang out at the entrance until the bells rings.  

What this means is that those kids who have been here since 7:15 don’t actually get first choice.  The kids that come down from the cafeteria are usually the last ones in the room, and they get the less-fun leftovers.  I thought long and hard on how to handle this situation.  

At first, I was using Class Dojo to randomly pick two people at the end of the day to go ahead and make a choice for the next day.  That worked, but one day while the kids were getting the room cleaned up and getting ready to go home, I had two sweet friends who were doing everything the way they were supposed to.  They had gone through the checklist of Stack and Pack Procedures, done them all, and were sitting quietly at their spots showing me they were ready to go.  

So guess who gets first choice now? You got it.  The first two people to Stack and Pack correctly and sit at their spots quietly get to choose their seats for the next day.  It works like a charm.  For now at least. I am sure I will need to come up with something more creative in the future.  

“BUT WHERE DOES ALL MY STUFF GO?”

Community supplies, community supplies, community supplies.  Need I say it one more time?  We utilize community supplies in my classroom and it keeps the mess down to a minimum.  My kids have certain items they know they are supposed to keep at their desk every day (box with pencils and crayons, Unfinished Work folder, binder, and IPads) and nothing else.  I am always very specific with how I want things to be left when we line up to go somewhere.  

Once everyone is lined up, I check around the room and if anyone’s spot is messy, they have to go clean it up before we can go anywhere.  I was a stickler about this the first two weeks and now I rarely have to ask anyone to go back and straighten their spot up.

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These are just a few examples of how my kids are expected to leave their spots when we go somewhere.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much this has helped keep desks and lockers cleaned out and decluttered.  For those kids who are sitting at a traditional desk, they have to clean their stuff out everyday because there is no guarantee they will sit there again tomorrow.

COME ON PEOPLE...REFOCUS

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I am just about finished, but I also wanted to share my Refocus Desk with all you patient readers. This is exactly what it sounds like.  If I have a student who is not making the best choices, or just isn’t staying on task, he or she will go to the Refocus Desk for 10 minutes.  After that 10 minutes, they are allowed to go back to their seats.  

However, if they have to make another trip the the Refocus Desk, they will lose free choice for the next day.  Now, I wish I could tell you if this actually works or not but I can’t.  I have never had to send anyone to the Refocus Desk more than once in a day.  The kids realize very quickly that it is not a fun spot to be.  So hey, I guess it does work.  Woohoo!!

HAPPY FLEXIBLE SEATING

I leave you with pictures of my kiddos enjoying their seating.  I hope that I have enlightened you a little about flexible seating.  It doesn’t have to be a monster, but can be if not approached with a well, thought out plan.  I would also like to thank Jamie Sears for this incredible opportunity to step out of my box and trusting me to do it.  


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Thanks for reading,

Amanda



Lots of FREE ELA Resources!


Did you look all of my free math resources? I sure hope so!

Today, I am crazy excited to share some free ELA resources that I have made for you. Enjoy!

Free Vocabulary Games

Are you having fun with your vocabulary words? How about playing some games in a center or as a whole group. Click HERE to read about my vocabulary games and grab all of the printables for FREE!

Free Grammar Activities

If you have never used my grammar sets, you might want to try one for free! This set includes a PowerPoint lesson, notebook activity, writing activity, task cards and an assessment to cover common and proper nouns. Click HERE to grab the whole set for FREE!


Free Writing Course

I am so insanely proud of this email course! I share tons of tips for teaching writing. And more importantly, I share tons of freebies: lesson plans, anchor charts, rubrics, conference forms and more! Click HERE to sign up for this free course.


Free Professional Development Videos

You might not have known that I am a movie star! I star in a couple ELA videos! They are short and full of good tips. Click HERE to watch my writing video.



 Click HERE to watch my vocabulary video!



Free Reading Center Posters

Do you need a simple way to show students which activities they should be doing during reading centers? I laminate posters that list the centers. Then I can use dry erase marker to write in student names. It makes it easy to move students from one group to another when necessary. Click HERE to grab FREE posters.



I hope that you enjoy these free ELA resources! 



Have a Not So Wimpy day!