Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: May 2018

Teaching Writing: A FREE Email Course for Teachers

Hello teacher friends!

Do you struggle to find time to teach meaningful writing lessons? Do you find it difficult to meet individual student writing needs? Do you wish you could be a #kickbutt writing teacher?

I have you covered! You can think of me as your "writing fairy godmother." #iwantglassslippers

I am offering you a FREE five day email course that will transform the way that you teach writing. It's kind of like magic, but without the top hat and bunny!

Are you ready to get started?
Day 1: What is writing workshop? {Free week of "getting started" lesson plans!}

Day 2: What should I include in the mini lesson? {Free anchor charts!}

Day 3: How can I make student work time meaningful? {Free notebook dividers!}

Day 4: How in the world am I going to conference with all of my students?! {Free conference data forms!}

Day 5: How will I ever have time to grade all of this writing? {Free rubrics!}

Did I mention that this entire course in FREE- as in no moolah necessary?! I am serious. I don't kid about stuff like this!

These freebies are ideal for grades 2-4!

The daily lessons will be delivered to your email box. You can read the lesson whenever you have the time and work through the course at your own pace. I promise to keep the lessons short and sweet- while still jam packing them with useful and practical ideas!

You will receive all of the following FREE resources:
  • Getting Started lesson plans (Your first week of writing is planned for you!)
  • Anchor charts for the first week. (Can you believe that I am giving you digital teacher versions and mini student versions for their notebooks?!)
  • Student writing notebook dividers. (Hello, organized notebooks!)
  • Conference data forms
  • Rubrics
... for FREE!!!

Get signed up now!

P.S. Sharing is caring! Be sure to let your teaching besties know about this amazing offer!

Everything You Need to Know About Math Centers

Are you thinking about using math centers in your classroom, but not sure where to start? Have you tried using math centers, but got discouraged by lack of time, student behavior or prepping materials? I have been there! And so I am excited to share tons of tips, ideas, freebies and resources that are going to make your math center time super successful!

So let's start from the beginning. It's a very good place to start. 🎼 (Fess up. Who is singing Do Re Me now?)

Why should I use math centers?

Are math centers totally new to you? Are you still wondering if they are a good use of time and effort? 

Math centers and guided math groups were the heart and soul of my math instruction. I can't imagine teaching without them! I often hear teachers say that they don't have time for math centers. I honestly feel that, if you are doing centers correctly, you don't have the time NOT to do centers. 

Math centers are NOT just fun and games. They are not just a way to busy your kids.

Click HERE to read more about the five reasons that math centers are a must.

What math center activities do you use?

I get asked this question ALL THE TIME! And it's a great question! Choosing the right activities is key to running successful math centers. 

Center rotations should NOT just be fun and games to keep students busy while you meet with small groups. They should be a meaningful use of their time!

I see so many teachers who make math center activities complicated and time consuming to prepare. 

You don't need to have six different activities! That is just six different things that you have to make/buy, print, prep and keep track of. You don't need that craziness! I have four different centers and only two require any prep at all. 

You don't need to change the center activities every week. Again, that is a ton of work for you. It also takes up valuable class time because you are having to explain the new activities every Monday. Use activities that can stay the same all year!

Click HERE to read more about the four centers that my students did every week.

How did you make time to meet with all of your groups?

This is another fantastic question!

First of all, math centers are so important that I MADE TIME for them. That means that I didn''t have lots of time for brain breaks, transitions, morning work, class meetings, etc. It's not that those things aren't good, it's just that math center time is so much more important. I had to prioritize my limited class time.

By stealing minutes from all of the "extras" during the day, I was able to come up with a 90 minute math block. I know that everyone can't do this- but I encourage you to try!

If there is absolutely no way that you can get more than 60 minutes, just make the most of it!

You probably noticed that I only have two center rotations each day. I found this to be the best use of my limited time. It kept us from wasting time with extra transitions, clean up, etc. 

Click HERE if you want to read more about how I managed my four groups while only meeting with two per day. You can even grab some free math center signs that will help you to get your groups organized!

How do you start math centers at the beginning of the year? 

The most important tip that I have for you is DON'T RUSH! Take your time teaching and practicing these routines. I broke it down into eight days of teaching the routines, but your class might need 10 or 12 days. Spend the time now, so that math centers run like a well oiled machine for the rest of the year. I promise that it will be worth the time!

Click HERE if you want to check out the eight days of lessons that I do when introducing math centers to my students.

What do you do when your students struggle with math centers?

Do you have students who don't complete any of the center work? Or students who talk and waste their time? Do you have students who don't take care of the materials?

We have all been there! Don't quit! A little more training and you can get the center time back on track.

Click HERE to read some suggestions for the most common math center struggles.

How do you organize your math materials?

Keeping your centers organized is important! Students can't be successful if they can't easily access the materials that they need.

I have tried lots of different systems for organizing my math centers.

Click HERE to check out my ideas for math center storage. You can also grab my free labels!

Do you want to check out my math centers?

Click your grade level to learn more about what skills and activities are included in the center bundle.

I hope that these tips and freebies help you to get started with math centers! 

Tips for Teachers who are Switching Grade Levels

1. Contact your new team lead.

Do your very best to get the contact information for your team lead or new team teachers. Most principals will provide email addresses.

You don't want to be a big pain in the neck, but it is a VERY good idea to briefly introduce yourself. Don't make it sound like you are a know-it-all who doesn't want to work with others. #epicfail Instead, let them know what your previous experience is and that you are excited to learn from the team in this new grade level.

You also want to ask a few questions. I would probably ask:
What curriculum is required and provided?
Is there a curriculum map or pacing guide?
What manipulatives, technology and/or classroom resources will be provided?
What do you recommend that I purchase over the summer? (books, furniture, supplies, curriculum, etc.)
What does your daily schedule look like?
Do you have any other advice for me?

2. Read the standards.

Seriously. READ THEM! All of them!

Before you go crazy decorating or buying resources, you have to be familiar with what you will be teaching in your new grade level. I suggest that you make yourself a cheat sheet. 

If a standard is confusing to you, do some research. Look the standard up on Google, Teachers Pay Teachers and on state education websites. 

I know that standards are not really a fun summer read. Maybe a margarita will help to make it more bearable. But you have to do it.

3. Become familiar with the provided curriculum. 

Now that you know what you will have to teach, spend some time looking over any provided curriculum. 

Reviewing the curriculum will help you to see where the holes are and where you will need to provide additional resources. It will also give you an idea of what your instruction is going to look like.

4. Join a grade level specific Facebook group.

I love learning from other teachers. You can't bug your new team lead all summer. But you can ask thousands of teachers (who teach the same grade) all of your burning questions on Facebook!

I have Facebook groups for second, third, fourth and fifth grade. Click HERE if you would like to join one of those groups.

If you teach a different grade, do some searches on Facebook. I am sure there are groups for every grade if you look.

Once you find a community of teachers, ask them how they teach certain standards. Ask them about their favorite read aloud and teacher blogs to follow. You can learn so much!

5. Keep organized.

Now that you know what you will be teaching, you are probably starting to download free resources and purchase games, centers, etc. Your printer might be working on overdrive! 

Do yourself a favor and keep everything organized from the start. Whether you prefer binders, file folders or a Goggle Drive- just be certain that you are filing each resource as soon as you purchase, download or print. 

Label all of your boxes, binders and files with subject names or standard numbers.

It might also be helpful to keep a list of what you have printed and what you are still looking for. I accidentally printed the same thing more than once and forgot about other great things that I had purchased. 

Spend the time now, to save your sanity later.

6. Relax

You are a great teacher. That is why you were asked to move to another grade level. They knew you could handle it. Believe in yourself.

If you love your students and are excited to learn new things, you will be an amazing teacher in any grade level. 

Take a deep breath and don't forget to enjoy your summer break.

I hope that these tips help you to get prepared for your new grade level! Good luck!

Have a Not So Wimpy day,

P.S. If you are new to third grade, you might want to check out all of my tips in THIS blog post.