Teaching Shy Students


Every class has students who play certain roles.  You have your class clown, your queen bee - the one everyone wants to be friends with, a rebel without a cause, shy students, plus a few other roles.  When I went through my training in undergrad, I was taught strategies to use with discipline problems,  gifted students,  English as a Second Language Learners, but I don't remember having a professor discuss ways to meet the needs of shy children.

Shy students were always a welcome addition to my class.  Probably because I had plenty of Chatty Cathy's in my class, so a few quiet ones help balance out the noise level.  There are a few things I've found through the years that helped my shy students come out of their shell:

*BEGINNING OF THE DAY:  Greet them when they come in the room with a simple, "Good Morning!"  Do not ask them questions, get in their personal space, or push them to talk to you.  For very shy children, it will be baby steps.  They may acknowledge your greeting by shaking their head, smiling at you, making eye contact, and eventually whispering hello.  It is a slow process.  Give them time to warm up to you.

*COOPERATIVE LEARNING: During cooperative learning activities, pair shy students with students who are a little bit more outgoing.  But do not pair them with a student who is over-the-top outgoing.  These students will overwhelm your shy ones.

*FOSTERING FRIENDSHIPS:  Ask shy students to run errands for you at the beginning of the year and send them with a buddy.  These quick trips give them a few minutes to get to know a buddy and hopefully make a new friend.

*LUNCH & RECESS:  With primary grades, the first few weeks of school, we draw names out of the bucket.  I have a bucket of boy names and a bucket of girl names. I draw 2 names out at a time. These 2 students are buddies for 2 days.  They sit by each other at lunch and play together at recess.  They can play with other buddy pairs, but they have to stay together for 2 days.  Every other day I would draw names again.  By the end of two weeks, each student has been a buddy with 5 students.  Hopefully, they will "click" with  one of the five students that they have been paired with.  **Please note:  I draw two names, I do not draw one name and let a student choose a buddy.  We've all had an experience once or twice in our life when we were the last one chosen.  Why give your students that experience?

*INSTRUCTION TIME:  Call on shy students when they either raise their hand or when you know the subject is their strength.  Overtime, they will build confidence by sharing when they have the correct answer and take more risks to share during other lessons.

There is a great article about shy students that you should read.  Click on the book to read it:

Missing supplies


If you asked any teacher to list his/her top 10 frustrations with delivering instruction that teacher would probably say students not having needed supplies at the top of the list.  It is a challenge to begin a math lesson when 19 out of 21 students have a pencil.  Or you are in the middle of explaining some new creative assignment that involves scissors and glue, and five students raise their hands to tell you that they can't find their scissors.  UGH!  Do you let them sit there and watch the other students do the assignment? Do you make them take the assignment home to complete and a note to the parent?  Do you ask your students to share their supplies with their classmates?  There are several ways you can look at this.  From a parent's point of view, they feel like they sent in the needed supplies at the beginning of the year so, why should they have to buy more?  Are you creating an enabling situation when students are continually rescuing a student who doesn't have his/her supplies or are you building a sense of community?  I feel it's important that we teach our students about responsibility, but Rome wasn't built in a day.  Is it realistic to expect 100% of your students to have their needed supplies everyday?  How many times have you asked the teacher next door for cotton balls, red construction paper, brads, or some other supplies you need for the lesson you are teaching that day?  It has happened to me more times than I care to count.  Thankfully, I've always taught next door to teachers who graciously share their supplies with me. So, if I'm a grown adult and don't always have all of my needed supplies to teach my lessons, is it fair for me to get frustrated with my students when they don't have theirs?  No, I don't think so.  How do you solve this problem?  Do you just throw up your hands and give up?  No, that's not the answer either.

First of all, you need to set a realistic goal.  Wouldn't it be great if you could count on 80% of your students always having their supplies to complete their assignments 100% of the time?  More than 80% is a bonus.  This means with 25 students, you can count on 20 students.  What do you do with the other 5?  You have "Oops" supplies . . . "Oops!  I forgot I need to bring more pencils to school.

One of the weekly jobs for your students is "supply manager".  When you begin an assignment, list what supplies will be needed, and have your students get out those supplies.  Students who don't have all of their needed supplies will raise their hand.  Your supply manager will give "Oops" supplies to those students. This way you don't have a long line and noisy students getting the needed supplies.  At the end of the lesson, your supply manager collects the "Oops" supplies.


Put a colored piece of tape on your supplies so your supplies are easily identified when it's time for your supply manager to pick them up.  I love the new colorful duct tape.  

The tape also comes in patterns which is great if you have a thematic room.
You can get a free copy of the supply labels by clicking on the picture below:

There are different ways to encourage your students to become more responsible.  If your class is divided into teams, give team points to each of the teams who have the needed supplies.  Another idea is to add an extra minute to your 30 minute Friday Fun day for each assignment that exceeds your 80% goal.   If more than 80% don't have their supplies, subtract that many minutes from Friday Fun Day. 


Favorite Picture Book

Every year, no matter what grade I teach, I read the book, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.  I always read this story the first week of school for two reasons.  First of all, it is my favorite story which I tell my class. This builds a personal connection with my students.  I have found this book is a wonderful resource for conflict management.  What class doesn't have a few conflicts, right?  Just like my students have conflicts with their brothers and sisters, at some point this school year, they will have conflicts with a classmate or two.  Learning to solve conflict is an important life skill.  I point out that in the original version of The 3 Little Pigs, it seemed like the wolf was the bad guy.  But, when we read this version, it seems like he was just a little misunderstood.  The pigs were jumping to conclusions about him because they didn't know the wolf's point of view. He didn't seem so bad after all, after we heard his side of the story.  I assure my students that when we have conflicts, it is important that we listen to both sides of the story.  Never assume your side of the story is right.  A little truth can usually be found in both versions of a story.  Having the text-to-self connection helps with conflict management.  I highly recommend all elementary teachers share this book with their class at the beginning of the year.

For other picture book ideas, visit Jeannie @ Kindergarten Lifestyle's picture book linky party.


Fluency Center: Sentence Shuffle

It seems like it is hard to find time to add fluency lessons to a busy schedule. Although you can send books home, families have busy schedules, too. So, what is the solution when fluency is such an important component to reading?

I found the best solution for me is to find a way for my students to practice their reading skills independently. I made Sentence Shuffle Centers that can be set up as a literacy center or folder activity. I have Sentence Shuffle Centers that are on reading levels K-5 so you can use these with your students below level, on-grade level, and enrichment.
Directions for the center:
  1. Put the cards into 3 stacks by color.
  2. Choose one card from each stack.
  3. Arrange the cards to make the cards into a sentence.        HINT: Find the card that begins with a capital letter.
  4. Read the sentence. These sentence can be real sentences or nonsense sentences.
  5. Choose 3 more cards and read the sentence.
  6. Keep doing this until you've used all of the cards.
  7. You may shuffle the cards and make new sentences if you have time.
  8. Complete one of the writing extension assignments.
There are 3 writing extension assignments so you can differentiate this activity.
If you put the Sentence Shuffle Centers in a 3 prong folder, you can color code them by reading level. You could set this up as a literacy center, use them with your small group, intervention groups, or with your early finishers groups.

I added page protectors to store the words cards. There are also page protectors for the writing extension assignments. I keep the direction and shuffle card page in the front and back pocket.
I just revised this packet (10-7-15). I added this mini-book which would be a great addition to your small group lessons. Send it home for additional fluency homework.
I also added 3 interactive journal printables: rhyme & phonemic awareness.
  • Let's Rhyme! 
  • Listen to the End! 
  • Listen to the Beginning! 
I'm sure there will be plenty of laughter with this center because your students can make some silly sentences.
This packet is available at my TPT store.
Click on the picture to go to my store.
FREE Fluency Fun - Sentence Shuffle Center

I have other Sentence Shuffle Centers. Click on the picture below.


Swat it!


What do you do with bugs?  Swat them, right?  Here's a fun activity to use with my "Buggy for Reading" packets.  You can also use this with other lessons, too.

When you meet with your reading group, give each student a copy of this:
This is from my primer packet.

First, give your students time to read these sentences silently by themselves.  Then you  let each student read a sentence or have partners read a sentence together.  

Ahead of time, write the sentences on sentence strips.  Choose two volunteers to play "swat it".  You give the volunteers a swatter (fly swatter with a square cut out of the middle).  You give them a clue such as "I'm looking for a word that rhymes with fan."  The first volunteer who covers the word with their swatter wins a bug.  Bugs are my incentive program.  You can get a free copy here:  B.U.G.S.  Sometimes you will give them clues that may work for more than one word such as "I'm looking for a word with a long vowel." 

There is also a writing extension for this lesson that can be given as homework, used as a center or given as a handwriting lesson.  

You may get a free preview of this packet by clicking on the bug:

This packet is available at my TPT for $5.

This packet is on the Primer level.
It is aligned with Kindergarten and 1st grade Common Core Standards.

These packet have the same type of activities, but at a different level:

Add caption
This packet is on the Pre-Primer level.
It is aligned with Kindergarten and 1st grade Common Core Standards.
This packet is on the First level.
It is aligned with 1st grade and 2nd grade Common Core Standards.



Wikipedia defines collaboration as: working together to achieve a goal.  

As teachers, we know it when we see it, when it comes to our students, but what does collaboration look like when you are working with the teachers on your grade level?  There are different models that work with different teams because teams, like classes, are made up of people with different personalities, experiences, and skills.

Personalities can be the glue that holds a team together or it can work as a wedge to drive people apart.  It is helpful if you know and understand each person's personality on your team.  There are many ways to define personality and the internet has quizzes your team can take to define theirs.  Just like we want "common language" among grade levels when teaching phonics, "common language" of personalities is beneficial, as well.  You can google personality tests and find several types.  My favorites are:



Another helpful thing to discuss with your team members is defining each person's thinking style when making a decision.  As a team of teachers, you make many decisions together in a school year.  Some examples are: "Where are we going on our field trip?"  "How are we going to split up our duties?"  "Who is responsible for ordering the supplies?" Edward de Bono, in his book, 6 Thinking Hats,  created a tool that is used to look at decisions from different perspectives.
The red hat thinker looks at problems using intuition, gut reaction, or emotions.

The black hat thinker is your "Devil's advocate".  This person looks at all the bad points of a decision.  This person is an important member of the team because he or she will point out all of the weak points in a plan so you can try to fix them ahead of time.
To read more about this, click HERE.

As a team, you need to discuss what collaboration will look like on your team.  Remember there are different models.  What may work for the grade level above you, may not work with your team. How will you divide up the duties and responsibilities?  How will you communicate so everyone is on the same page?  

With the school year soon coming to a close, this is a great time to do some reflecting about your team.  What worked well?  What needs some improvement?  Remember a cohesive, effective team is always evolving.

Here is a form you can use when you need to make a team decision:


Phonics Relay Races


Do you have a class that has too much energy?  You've heard of Race for the Cure, this race will cure something a little different.  Phonics Relay Races can help with the wiggles, irritability, and limited attention span that students seem to magically "catch" around Halloween, Easter, or other sugar-fest holidays.

To play:

1. Divide your students into groups.  If they are particular wiggly the day you decide to do this, you need to have more groups so they will run more often.

2.  Students line up in straight lines behind a line.  Beside each team is a different colored bucket.  Each team is assigned a bucket.
Dollar Tree has these buckets for $1.

3.  The race part of this activity involves students running to a hula hoop that is at a designated place, finding letters that are lying inside the hula loop, bringing the correct letters back to their team and putting the letters in their team's bucket.  Each team has their own hula hoop.  P.E. teachers usually have hula hoops that they will loan you.   You can use letters used for bulletin boards or foam letters like these:

You can buy foam letters like these in the baby bath tub supplies at Target or Wal-Mart.

4.  The teacher will give clues for what letters the people at the beginning of the line needs to find in the hula hoop.  After giving the clue, the teacher will say "go", the student will run to the hula hoop, find the correct letter, and put it in their bucket.  

5.  The winner is decided at the end.  The team or teams that have all the correct letters in their bucket is/are the winners.

The great thing about this game is it can be adapted to any grade level.  Examples of clues:

*Clue #1:  This letter is the sound you hear at the end of the word "globe".
*Clue #2:  These are the letters you hear at the beginning of the word "chain".
*Clue #3:  These are the 3 letters you hear at the end of the word "coming".
*Clue #4:  This is the sound you hear in the middle of the word "zap".

You can also make this game into a Math Relay Race game.  It can be adapted to any grade level.

*Clue #1:  What is the answer:  12 + 3 = ___
*Clue #2:  What is the answer:  How many sides does an octagon have?
*Clue #3:  What is the answer:  4 X 8 = ___
*Clue #4:  What is the answer:  How many minutes are in a quarter hour?

This game burns off excess energy while reviewing skills your students have studied.  It's a WIN-WIN!


Homework Incentive


A teacher wears so many different hats!  We have to be a jack-of-all-trades.  It's a wonder that teachers can hold up their head with the weight of the different hats they wears in a day.  One of the things that used to frustrate me was students not turning in their homework.  In each class, there were always a handful of students who rarely turned in their work.  Why was this so difficult? What hat did I need to put on to solve this problem? One day I had an epiphany!  I was sitting in a faculty meeting when my principal was reminding us about paperwork that was due the day before.  I thought, hmmmmm, grown adults with a college degree don't turn in their work with 100% consistently, so how can I expect children to do it?  I decided to set a more realistic goal.  I watched my turn-in rate for a week and then averaged it.  This became my new goal for my class.  I shared my new expectations with my class and then we brainstormed ways to exceed our goal.  A few of our ideas were:

  • Let students choose three homework buddies. Buddies exchange email and phone numbers. If student forgets a homework assignment, is absent, or has a question about an assignment, the student calls his/her homework buddy(ies).
  • The first time you use this incentive method, change your seating chart so the homework buddies sit by each other. At the end of the day, buddies make sure everyone has all the materials/assignments/books they need to complete their homework.
  • In the morning, buddies make sure their “buddy group” turns in their homework assignment.
We also had an incentive program. I hung up the letters for the word, HOMEWORK, on a bulletin board (the letter side down). Each time my students met their goal, we turned over a letter of the word.  When all of the letters for the word homework were turned over, we voted on a prize.  Prizes varied from playing Heads Up 7-Up to chalkboard/whiteboard races.  You can do different incentives to keep your students motivated. You can either use the letters that spell homework or you can use the letters of the prizes such as recess for an extra recess, popcorn for a popcorn and movie party, etc.  



Click HERE to download a copy if you'd like to try this, too.

Do you ever feel like the Verizon guy?


Can you hear me now?  Do you ever feel like you are talking, but you're not sure if all of your students are listening to you? Some days it seems like you need to do a sound check.
 After numerous conversations with parents of my non-listeners, I discovered a pattern.  These students had frequent ear infections when they were toddlers.  Toddlers years are important developmental years when it comes to skill development for listening and following directions. This is the stage when children learn to follow one and two step directions such as "go get your socks and shoes so we can go see Grandma."  When you have an ear infection, your hearing is similar to your head being underwater.  You hear sound, but not the actual words.  My own personal theory is, children with frequent ear infections during these developmental stages, don't learn to tune into the meaning of words.  Parents only have a few children so they can repeat directions several times. As a parent, it's irritating, but not alarming.  But, in a classroom with 20+ students, repeating directions more than 2 or 3 times is not a luxury most teachers have.  It is an issue that teachers will bring to parent's attention.  What is a parent and teacher to do when they have a child or student who doesn't attend to the meaning of words?  Parents and the teacher need to get on the same page, double team the child.  Make the child look at you when you give directions so you know they are tuned into what you are getting ready to say.When you or the parent give directions, ask the child to repeat what you just said.  Visuals can also help, too.  I am a big fan of the L-shaped acrylic picture frames that you can buy for a few dollars at Wal-Mart or Target.  These make great sign holders for all the routine procedures in your classroom.  Here's a picture of my sign next to my homework tub.  If a student ask you a question about one of your routine activities, point to the sign.  You are teaching your students to use visual cues.


Here are homework labels you can download.
I used BD Cartoon Shout font.  You can download
it for free by clicking here.


These labels are inside the homework folder.
You can download them, too.


Reading levels for Magazines


Have you discovered "Kids Discover" magazines yet?  I recently purchased a set of these magazines at a used book store.  They only cost 50 cents a piece so I couldn't resist!  When I went online to find out more about them, I discovered (yes, there's that discover word again!) that the website gives the reading level for each magazine.  How great is that?  We level our books, but now we can level our magazines, too!

One of the magazines I bought is perfect for this time of year . . . . . Oceans.  Plus, with the implementation of Common Core standards and the non-fiction requirements, these magazines are the perfect supplement to your reading program.


Click to go to the website.

A magazine center can be an easy way to implement more non-fiction into your schedule.  I have a packet called "Magazines and More" that has everything you need for 18 weeks of centers, except for the magazines.  Four of the assignments can be used with interactive journals. The packet does come with a parent letter asking for donations of children's magazines.  

Click HERE to visit my store.