Connecting with Students: Love Languages

Have you read the book, The Five Love Languages? The first time I read this book, I felt the same way I did when I went to the eye doctor and was fitted with a pair of eyeglasses. Suddenly, I looked at the world in a whole new way. Everything was crisp and clear!

Gary Chapman, the author and marriage therapist, found in his practice that couples express and interpret love through five languages:
  •  Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch. 
Love languages is a perfect tool for a teacher's toolbox. The principles of this book can help teachers connect with their students.

Think about your class to see if you can identify your students' love language.  Do you have a student that:
  • Greets you in the morning with a hug.
  • Wants to hold your hand when you walk to recess
  • Hugs you good-bye at the end of the day.
You can connect with this student by:
  • Putting your hand on the student's head or shoulder when he or she is waiting line to ask you a question and you are speaking to someone else.
  • Holding his or her hand when this student is the line leader.

A student with the gifts love language will:
  • Bring you heart-felt gifts to show you that he or she is thinking about you.  This student may spend his or her recess time picking dandelions to make you the perfect flower bouquet.
You can set up a special supplies box. Put fun supplies like glittery pencils, twistable crayons, or gel pens in the box.  Show your class an example of someone's paper who showed improvement, has neat handwriting, or wrote an amazing story.  Let this student use the special supplies box during work time.  The student will see using the special supplies as a gift - even though he or she doesn't get to keep the supplies.  Plus, you have the bonus love language of words of affirmation by sharing how wonderful the work was.

Students whose love language is words of affirmation will:
  • Tell you that you are their favorite teacher.
  • Write you notes and pictures
  • Compliment you as a person or your job as a teacher
Write a few words in this student's journal, tell them when you notice them doing something positive, or write a happy note like the one in the picture.  You can get a FREE COPY of the note in the picture.

The student with quality time as his or her love language may be the student asking for quality time in the wrong way.  Students who don't get their needs met at home, will try to get those needs met at school.  

Connecting with these students - giving them quality time - can be difficult when you have 20+ students.  With a little bit of effort, you can make it happen. Here are a few "stolen moments" that you can use with the quality time students (QTS):
  • Ask QTS to come to your teacher table before you begin calling reading groups.  Look at his or her writing journal or homework.  Ask him or her to tell you about it.  Just a few minutes can pay big dividends.  Your QTS goes away feeling connected with you and is now less disruptive.  Win!  Win!
  • Organize lunch buddy groups.  Once a week invite a group of students to eat lunch in your room.  Quality time doesn't always have to be one-on-one.  A small group like this will work, too.
How do you connect with your students?

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Partner Plays & Hands on Fluency with Jan Brett

Jan Brett recently visited my local bookstore. I was fortunate to be one of her fans that attended her visit. She taught an art lesson while she spoke to us. I found some of her drawing lessons online. These would be perfect for inside recess or a lesson extension to one of her stories. You can find the 2 drawing lessons along with read alouds for the following stories with my new FREE Q.R. code Listening Center:
  • The Mitten
  • The Hat
  • 3 Snow Bears
  • Annie & the Wild Animals 
Fluency is one of those skills that requires practice, practice, and more practice.  Students need more practice than what they get during small group lessons.  Some students are fortunate to have involved parents who help them at home.  How do you help students who don't have this support?

Set up a Readers Theater play with stick puppets and your fluency is now hands on.  
You can make a stick puppet stage with a graphic like the one in the picture, a file folder, and some binder clips. To make this:
  • I glued the stage graphic on the front cover of a file folder.
  • Laminate the file folder with stage graphic.
  • Fold the back flap of the file folder like a fan (1 inch strips).
  • Hold the fan with large binder clips on each end.
  • Use an X-acto knife to cut a slit in the front for the stick puppets to slide through on the stage.
This is the view from the back of the puppet stage.  Students can also hold their puppets next to the edge of a table or desk if you don't want to make a stage.
You can find ways for students to practice their reading skills independently at school.  Partner plays are an easy to manage fluency activity.  You can divide the speaking parts into however many students are in your small group.  This group has two students so I used 2 different colors to highlight students' parts.  

The example of the stick puppets and readers theater scripts is from Jan Brett Readers Theater and more.  

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Cool Teaching Tips: Organization & Behavior

Winter break is the perfect time to rest and recharge your teacher battery.  The teaching profession is one that requires you to give, give, give, without time to boot up for the next day.  This is why teachers are just as ready for winter break as their students!

One way you can start the New Year with a positive attitude is by trying new things.  You know your students - academically and behaviorally - by this time of the year.  With a little tweaking, the second semester can be even better than the first! 

Sometimes small changes can reap big rewards.

Does your class interrupt your small group lessons?  Visual cues like these colorful, plastic glasses are great "do not disturb" signs.  ALL of your students will wear them when they meet with you during small group time. This reinforces the purpose of the glasses.  I found these glasses at Target's party supply section.
Old socks are great teacher tools. Let your students grab a sock when it is time to put them in groups.  You can be as creative with your groups as you want:
  • Group #1:  socks with bumps
  • Group #2:  Socks with an animal(s) on them
  • Group #3:  Socks with a pattern
  • Group #4:  Socks - primary color
  • Group #5:  Socks - secondary colors
You can divide the groups into smaller groups if you have too many students with the same type of sock.
Peer pressure can be used in a positive way.  Think of 2-3 goals for your class.  

BE REALISTIC! Have at least one goal that needs just a little tweaking.  Students can easily identify this goal when the class is doing it or the class is not doing it.  This should be something that more times than not your class will be successful.  You want your students to buy into this system.  If all 3 goals are too difficult to achieve, your students will give up.  Suggestions:
    • 75% of our class will turn in the homework
    • 75% of our class will come to school on time.
    • 85% of our class stacked their chair at the end of the day.
    • 80% of our class will have needed material ready for our lesson within __ minutes.
    • 90% of our class will line up within __ minutes when I blow my whistle that it is time to lineup at the end of recess.
    • 80% of our class will take home their hats and gloves/mittens.
Did you notice that NONE of these goals state 100% of the class will achieve the goal?

How would you feel if you met with your administrator after being observed and he or she said, "Miss Teacher you do not get points for student engagement because only 85% of your students were paying attention during your lesson.  I noticed that 1 student was staring out the window, 1 student was playing with an eraser in his desk, and another student kept kicking the student's desk in front of her."  Would that motivate you to go back to your classroom and teach your heart out?  

You can keep track of your goals with something simple like these chain links.  Each color is a different goal.  At a glance, you can see which goal needs more effort.

Motivation is key to having a wonderful second semester.  Work on improvement not perfection and you'll have a happy class!

My friend, Susan @Keep 'Em Thinking, has teacher tips that are perfect for this time of the year. Be sure to visit her.

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Take Home Readers & Class Library

It seems like you never have too many books when you are a teacher.  I like to have more than one copy for:
  • Author study 
  • Social studies or science unit 
  • Leveled readers for take home readers or Daily 5 
  • Class Library 
Books are a great teacher tool.  Unfortunately, most districts do not provide class libraries or take home readers. Setting this up can be costly if you are a new teacher or are switching grade levels. Where are the best places to find inexpensive books?

Thrift stores: Great prices - especially around the holidays! Books can be purchased at many for 25 - 50 cents.
Garage sales: Many people will sell you bags of books for very little money if you show them your school ID.
Scholastic Book Clubs: Use points to order books. This is a great way to order sets of books for your reading groups.
Parents: Add a note to your newsletter each month asking for gently used books. Many parents are happy to donate books when they know they are going to a good cause.

Once you set up your class library and take home readers another pricey problem occurs. The "missing book syndrome" is a source of frustration for many teachers. You send home books with your students but somehow the book never returns to school. You ask the student where the book is, you send home notes, email the parent, call the parent, yet the book never returns to school. A book that you spent personal money, took time to level, add to your collection, is now gone forever. What can you do?

I have tried a variety of things through the years. Writing my name on the inside cover. Nope! This did not help. Put colored dot stickers on the spine of the book showing which collection the book belonged to. Nope! There are other books at the thrift store with dots. Parents also shop at thrift stores.

I needed to make my books easy to identify from the student's books at home. Tape was the answer to this problem.
I put tape around the edges of the front and back cover. You can easily see the tape when you look at the book without opening a page of the book. I added tape to the hinge of the book, too. I found my books also lasted longer with the tape along the edges of the covers of my books. At the end of the year when I am collecting my books, I remind my students and parents to look through their books at home for books that have tape on the covers. I had a larger percentage of my take-home readers returned when I did this.

If you are like me and have a huge collection of books, the thought of adding tape to your thousands of books seems like a insurmountable challenge. There are a few things you can do to make this less painful.

The only supplies you need are return address labels and tape.

Start Small: How many books do you need at the beginning of the year for take-home readers? Collect that many readers and put them in a tub along with the supplies you'll need. Do you work on this type of thing while you watch t.v. in the evening? Put the tub next to your chair and do a few each night. Soon your tub of books will be finished. That sense of accomplishment will motivate you to go collect another tub of books. Taking "small bites" of this project is the key!
You can also ask a parent volunteer to do this for you. I would organize this for the parent like the suggestion above. Give the parent the supplies and a tub of books. Don't show your parents the 2,432 books that you need to be leveled and taped or he/she will be overwhelmed.
Make it a party! Invite your teacher friends to bring their tub of books over. It is much more fun to work on a project like this when chit chatting with friends.

Have you found a good source to level your books? When I go to the thrift store, I usually purchase the Scholastic books because I know I can find the reading level information for those books on the Scholastic Book Wizard. You can get that information:
I also find information about books on the Level It app. I am not always able to find information about every book or it might give the Lexile level but not the Guided Reading level.

I like to level my books by grade level, guided reading level, DRA, and Lexile. You never know when you may switch schools or your school may decide to switch to a different format. By doing it this way, I don't get as stressed when there is some change that is introduced.

BOOK BOX GIVEAWAY: I have been hosting "Need Books" giveaways on my Facebook page. Make sure you follow my page so you can enter each time I am hosting a book box giveaway.

These book giveaways are a great way to help stock or replenish your class libraries or take home readers.

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Teacher Tips: Handwriting & Fine Motor Skills

Handwriting is one of those skills that is often overlooked.  Yet, when you grade their assignments, it is evident that more time should be spent on handwriting.
When I began teaching, many years ago, we had an actual block of time to teach handwriting.  I wrote letters and sentences on the overhead which modeled correct letter formation.  Students copied what I wrote on handwriting paper.

More and more was added to our schedule and something had to go. Handwriting was one of the first things to go.   You can still teach handwriting skills by integrating it with your other lessons.
It seems like there is always a few students that need to work on proper grip.  Give those students something small to hold - like the ball in the picture above - to hold. You can introduce this during your small group lesson when your students are writing. 
Some students hold their pencil in the wrong place. Wrap a rubberband around a pencil to show students where to hold their pencil. You can use grippers, too. There are a variety of grippers on the market.
  • The C.L.A.W. gripper helps students hold their pencil correctly.
  • My former O.T. loaned me these grippers.  I loved them so much, I bought my own set.  

Try a variety of pencils with your early writers.  My first Ticonderoga is my favorite fat pencil.  Golf pencils are the perfect size for small hands.
During small group lessons, use marker boards with dotted lines. Model how to write sight words or vocabulary words (like I used to do during my handwriting lessons). Your students will write the words on their dotted lines board after you model it. Encourage your students to use lines and spaces correctly.

Have you used makeup sponges for erasers?  They don't take up much work space and are the perfect size for small hands.
Do you need handwriting supplies?  I am going to host a giveaway of the supplies above on my FB page.  You can enter on my FB page - on the post with the picture above - if you would like to enter.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
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FREE Listening Center Q.R. Codes & Giving Thanks Giveaway

At this time of year, time is in short supply.  I made a FREE Thanksgiving Listening Center - Q.R. Codes and response pages. There are different apps that you can use for this center.  I like this one.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time of the year to remember all of our blessings. My friend Fern and I are hosting a giveaway to thank our followers. The winner can choose any store or restaurant on the Gift Card Mall site. We will announce the winner on our FB pages.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Feelings Journal & Behavior Management

Feelings can impact the climate of your class.  Students are little thermometers.  They absorb all of the good and bad vibes around them. It is important to have a strategy in your teacher toolbox to help your students.
Have you used a feelings journal?  Use a feelings journal as a morning work assignment.  Students are able to begin their day more focused after sharing what they are thinking and feeling. BONUS: You can take the pulse of your class with this assignment.

Holding students accountable for their behavior is important. Make the end of the your day a time of reflection.  Students can reflect about their feelings and behavior at school with this assignment. 
Different pages from "My Feelings Journal".

Organize books about behavior, feelings, or character traits.  It is very helpful to have a "go to" tub of books when an issue happens in the classroom.  You can reinforce your class rules, discussions, and conferences with students about behavior using read alouds.
You can integrate your behavior management with your literacy lessons.  Quick prep, addresses behavior issues . . . kills two birds with one stone . . . . what's not to love?
Tattling can become a big issue during cold and flu season.  Students are irritable which causes more conflicts.  This is a good time to read A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue.  You can do the easy prep option of read aloud and reading response page. 

I recommend making a tattling tongue bulletin board if this has been an on-going problem.  Point to the bulletin board when your students have a conflict to remind them to use the strategies from the book.  My new file includes a bulletin board, too.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
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Reading Fluency: Magazines & Readers Theater Tips

This blog post is sponsored
by Scholastic Magazines.

Do you have any budding actors and actresses in your class this year? Channel all of that creative energy and increase your students' fluency skills with Readers Theater.  This month's Storyworks Jr. magazine includes the Readers Theater script,Yeh Shen, A Chinese Cinderella Story.

Getting a Storyworks Jr. magazine in the mail is like getting a gift for yourself.  Readers Theater is fun, which keeps students engaged at this crazy time of the year.

You can organize the performance of Yeh Shen, A Chinese Cinderella Story different ways.  Add a simple prop like the red fan (picture at the top of the page) to make it more engaging for your students.  I found the fan at Dollar Tree this summer.  I also bought a box of fans (dozen) at a party supply store for $2.50.
There are enough parts of the script,Yeh Shen, A Chinese Cinderella Story, for half of your class to perform it. Divide your class in two groups.  Both groups will perform the play.  Write the names of the students in the groups on a marquee sign like the one in the picture above.  This will help students remember their group.
Use glitter to add a little glitz to your bulletin board with the play groups.
Color code your groups. Students can wear a necklace with the name of the character or their part of the play. When it is time to practice all you need to do is say, "It is time for the green group to practice" instead of calling a list of students.  Color coding is a big time saver! 
Let students make their own signs.  You can also set this up as a center.  You can get a free copy of the play signs and marquee here.
Your students fluency skills will improve with all of the practicing they will happily do.  I'm sure your students will want to know when the next issue of Storyworks Jr. is coming so they can begin the next play.

As you know, I love reading and giving stuff away.  When Scholastic contacted me and asked if I would be willing to tell my readers about their magazines, it was a quick yes.


You could win a $200 gift card from the Scholastic Teacher Store!

We love #SmartTeachingTips. Share yours for how you use Scholastic magazines creatively in your classroom. Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram, and include a photo or video. Be sure to use #SmartTeachingTips.

Three winners will be chosen based on outstanding creativity. Each winner will receive a $200 gift card to the Scholastic Teacher store. We’re excited to see your ideas! Follow Scholastic Teachers on social media to learn more.

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Scholastic Magazines - Promotional Code
Scholastic Magazines are the most affordable and exciting way to bring current, curriculum connected nonfiction into your classroom. To save 40%, mention code “2905” when ordering. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC or visitwww.scholastic.com/magazines.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Handling Parent Complaints

Mom's advice, when you hear it you may or may not take it. If you are a mother, you may see more of the "not taking it" occurring in your house. I am the mother of teen so I see more of the not taking it.

It made my heart sing when my daughter began to look at education as a career. When she was younger, she swore she would never teach because "teachers work too hard". I couldn't imagine teaching if you didn't feel a real calling to the profession, could you?

Now that she has shown an interest in my passion, I am trying to impart as much teacher wisdom as I possibly can before she goes to college. You know, all those life lessons in the trenches that you didn't learn in undergrad. This is one of the reasons why I began the "Need Books?" book giveaways this year. I wanted to show her how to level books.

Now I am going to begin a new series of blog post called "Life Lessons from the Trenches". I want to apologize ahead of time in case this sounds too Mom-ish. These are tips I wish someone would have told me before I began teaching. Feel free to share your life lessons in the comments at the bottom of this post.

Life Lesson in the Trenches - Lesson #1

You will get parent complaint. Good teachers get complaints, vanilla teachers get complaints, ineffective teachers get complaints . . . are you seeing a pattern? You can be the Einstein of teachers but, still a parent will be less than pleased with you. Why?

You need to get to the root of the problem.

Comparison: The neighbor raved about all of the amazing stuff their child's teacher was doing.   Now one of your parents is upset with you because you aren't doing the same stuff as the "amazing teacher".  If this happens to you:
  • Invite the upset parent to volunteer in your class so he or she can see all of the amazing stuff going on in your room. 
  • Communicate the great stuff happening in your room.  Don't be shy!  Add pictures to your website or newsletter.  A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Ask the "amazing teacher" if he or she would be willing to share some ideas or activities with you.
Boomerang: Mom and Dad had a fight about the sad note you sent home. Your note causes dissension. Now the parent is unhappy with you.  It is the boomerang effect.

When you sense this is the issue, invite the parents to come in for a conference so everyone can share their point of view. It is easier for everyone to get on the same page when you have spoken face-to-face. The student needs a united front at home and school.

Ambassadors: The outspoken member of the community has shared his or her concern about how you are performing your job. It is important to listen to all complaint. Don't dismiss a complaints by Mrs. Frequently because she freely shares her opinions. There might be several other parents who feel the same way as Mrs. Frequently. These parents know that Mrs. F. loves to give free advice. They have given their tacit agreement which made her your class ambassador.

It is easy to take complaints personal and let them cloud your view of your job.  Remember, only a small percentage of parents may have a concern.  These parents may have a concern on that day about that particular topic.  The other 179 days of the school, these same parents may in fact think you are doing a great job!

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.