Tuesday, January 26, 2016

15 Tips for Staying Positive all School Year

Hi there.  It's Angela from The Organized Plan Book.  

Well, dear teacher friends...it is already the end of January.  We have (shockingly) moved through half of the school year...but let's face it, it's super easy for us to get caught up in a winter funk.

But hold on...you can't!  You're a teacher.  You have a responsibility to those kiddos.

That's right, you are the decisive element in your classroom.  You are responsible for keeping it all together.  Don't let the winter blues get ya' down.  Check out my 15 strategies for keeping it positive all year long.

1. Stay away from the faculty lounge.
But you knew this one already, of course...

2. Stay away from negative people (especially those who don't enjoy their jobs).
Negative people will suck you dry.  Not just those within our own industry...but anyone who has a negative attitude can bring the happiest of humans down.  Just plain ol' walk away.  Nobody's got time for complaining

3. Sign up for daily inspirational quotes.
A quick search in your Smartphone's app store will turn up some excellent free apps where you can receive motivational quotes.

4. Take a brain break.
These aren't just for the kids ya' know?  Do some quick yoga stretches, take part in the GoNoodle fun with your students, jog in place.  Just give that brain a rest.

5. Listen to music.
I have music playing about 90% of my school day.  I choose appropriate music based on whatever activity we are doing.

6. Draw.
Find a minute to release the frustration by tapping into your creative side.  Adult coloring books are all the rage right now.

7. Go for a walk.
Similar to the brain break, your body needs time to just unwind.  Go for a walk...even if it is just down the hallway.

8. Create small goals.
Celebrate the small goals that will lead you to a larger one.  "Hey, I made it through Wednesday...only two more days of the week left."

9. Create an inspirational quote wall.
You can make this fun and get the students involved also.  They can add to the wall, and you can choose to change it up as much or as little as you would want.

10. Make your classroom comfortable and bright.
You spend so many hours in the classroom...make it a place you want to be.  Choose soothing colors, don't clutter up the space, bring in plants, perhaps turn off the overhead lights and utilize only the daylight in your room.

11. Keep a daily log of things that make you happy.
You can have the students do this as well.  This is a terrific way to kick off your morning and ease into the day...or as an end of the day reflection to help yourself and the students unwind.

12. Keep a mood board in your classroom.
Near my desk I have a french bulletin board that includes pictures of my family, vibrant colors, inspirational quotes, and other misc. things that make me feel good each time I glance at the board.  Like the Sound of Music, "I just simply remember my favorite things...and then I don't feel so bad."  Yep.

13. Utilize essential oils in the classroom.
I have talked about my love for essential oils in the classroom a number of times.  You can can check out my post on how these oils are impacting my students' performance and how I create mood mists in my classroom by clicking the images below.

15. Search for funny memes.
Just a simple Google search or browse through Pinterest for a witty, little meme can have you feeling lighter.  Am I right?
But if you have another one, now you'll know what to do.
Via Troll.me
And that's it, my friends.  15 simple strategies you can use to help you get through your mid-year rut!  Got some more suggestions?  Leave your comments below!

As always, happy teaching!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Order of Operations Hopscotch!

Hi, it's Kim from Quinnessential Lessons. I want to share with you one of the ways I get my students moving in math class. It's so important to get students up and moving while learning. You can't dispute the research out there. Kids learn better if they are up and moving/doing vs. sitting still and watching.

I try and incorporate movement into my lessons whenever I can. Sometimes I am more successful than others. Order of Operations Hopscotch is a keeper!

I can't remember where I got the idea but once I read about it, I knew I had to try it. I have been doing it ever since.

After teaching the students order of operations, we go outside and create order of operations hopscotch games. I break up the class into groups of 3 or 4. Each group is given sidewalk chalk to create their own hopscotch board. 
The students then take turns playing hopscotch. As they work their way through the game, they must say the steps as they hop - "Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication and Division left to right, Addition and Subtraction left to right."
This is a great way to reinforce the fact that there are 4 steps in the order of operations NOT 6. 

How do you get your students up and moving during lessons? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Three things having a student teacher taught me

Hey friends!

It's Erin from Learning to be Awesome here!  I'm going to share with you some things that I learnt about myself and my teaching after having a student teacher last year!

My student teacher was awesome.  Her enthusiasm and drive were so motivating - especially on those days when I was feeling not the best.  Great news too - she landed her first teaching job after only two interviews!  Read on to hear the three things that having her in my room for two months taught me!

Having a student teacher taught me to be flexible.  
As teachers we are flexible by nature.  It goes with the territory.  But the kind of flexibility I'm talking about is different.  I'm talking about being flexible in how my class looked!  In how it sounded, and how the programme ran.  There is so much you can learn when someone is able to experiment with your space - knowing that there is someone there to catch them if they fall.  
For the first 3 weeks life in my class was very much "Monkey See-Monkey Do" but once I gave the reigns over to her - WOW did I see her flourish.  And the kids were so engaged.  They asked about "Miss S" right up to the last day of school.

Having a student teacher taught me to be reflective.  
Again - it's the nature of the job!  We are constantly reflecting on our programmes and modifying to suit.  I was forced to REALLY examine WHY I do things the way I do when she was in my room. When you have to explain WHY you have silent reading after break time, it makes to contemplate whether changes need to be made.

Having a student teacher taught me to have clarity.  
Once you have to explain things to a student teacher to help them with their teaching, it really helps the students in your class!  They are more clear on the learning because you have had to be clear with your student teacher.  One way to have clarity in your teaching is to develop shared success criteria with your students.  
This really is a universal thing too.  For Example: if you are teaching students to add two fractions together, one sure fire way to be sure your students understand is to get them to develop criteria that they can refer to when checking for understanding.  This criteria could be steps they go through (great in maths and science), or more liberal such as a list of things a poster presentation must include (more suited to social studies and ELA).

Have you had a student teacher before?  What are some of the things they have taught you?

Monday, January 11, 2016

January What Are You Reading?

Welcome to our January What Are You Reading? linky party. You are invited to join us by blogging about a book you are reading for the upper elementary classroom. It can be a book your students love, a professional book, an old favorite or a new must have. So what are you reading?

To link up with us, please write a short blog post about a book that includes our graphic and link back to this post. Happy Reading from Focused on Fifth!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

All Kinds of Resolutions

Happy New Year! This is Brandi, from The Research Based Classroom, and I am excited to get back to blogging. I took a little vacation from blogging after the Focused on Fifth's 12 Days of Christmas extravaganza, so it's good to be back. Normally I am not the goal setting type of person, but I live with a very goal-oriented type of guy and it is apparently rubbing off. Usually our conversation goes like this....

Him: So what are your goals for this year?
Me: Haven't thought about it.
Him: Surely you have goals.
Me: Not really.

This year our roles completely reversed and the conversation went more like this....

Me: Don't you want to hear my goals for this year?
Him: You set goals?
Me: Yes, can you believe it??!!!!
(Then I proceeded to tell my goals.)
Me: So, what are yours?
Him: I don't have any.

I feel like I'm in some weird alternate existence right now.  I do have to admit that most of my goals are classroom oriented. It's too cold and frozen out their for making goals like "get more exercise." So let's talk classroom goals. Before I tell you my goals, you should keep in mind that I don't like to make big goals that I can't or won't keep, so I'm starting this goal setting business easy and achievable.

My first goal involves giving no more timed math tests. It's weird but I hadn't done them in decades. Literally. But when I moved to fifth grade this year, my entire team gave timed math tests and I succumbed to peer pressure. Ok...that's a little bit of an exaggeration because my team doesn't pressure each other, but I felt the pressure to conform. It was my first year in the grade level and I thought rocking the boat might be bad. But here it is mid-year and I don't feel like they have been helpful, so I started reconsidering how to get some fact fluency practice in without timed tests and I ended up right back to where I used to be when I taught first grade - GAMES. I am giving my students 10 minutes at the end of each math period to play games that help them build their basic fact fluency. Some students are playing games on electronic devices, others are playing dice games and some are choosing flash cards. So goal number one is to come up with more fact fluency games.

My second goal is brushing up on my US history. I have always loved history and usually consider myself as having a pretty good understanding of American history. We've traveled through most of the states and visited all the historical sites we could, but it's a whole different ballgame when you have to teach it. All of the sudden I find myself wondering how to best teach about Concord and Lexington and I've realized that it would be a lot easier to teach about things if I had a better understanding of them. So goal number two is more reading of American history books.

I also decided to ask my students to come up with an idea for a class goal that would help us make 2016 even better than 2015. The majority of my students came up with the same idea.

I probably would have picked less talking too. I really hope this is an achievable goal! So, how about you? What are you planning to change in 2016? And do you have any good history book recommendations?

Happy New Year!