Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Foster Growth Mindsets with Free Learning Centers!

Foster growth mindsets within your students this year with these four FREE learning centers!

Growth mindset… it’s one of my favorite movements to sweep across the education world in recent years. After reading Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci, I decided to create a Growth MindsetPowerPoint and a set of partner plays. When I finished those items, I thought I was done creating for this concept. However, during a recent loooooong road trip, I was inspired to create some growth mindset stations, and make them available for free to our blog readers. 

Station #1

Because of my ESL background, I have a love for visuals. This station is based upon what researchers have discovered about how our brains operate. Researchers have discovered that when we learn a new skill or piece of information, pathways are created in our brain between neurons. These pathways are weak at first, but become stronger as we repeat and practice the skill. To show how these pathways become thicker and strong with repeated practice, I created the following visual. Students begin by using a colored pencil or marker to color the neurons shown in each brain. Students then glue (or tape) thread on the first image, ribbon on the second image, and then yarn and rope (or chord) on the last two images to connect the neurons.
1 of 4 FREE growth mindset learning centers! Students learn how pathways are created between brain neurons... and how practice makes these pathways stronger.

Station #2

Dealing with mistakes and failures in the most positive way possible is the focus of this second station. Students read the scenarios on the two cards. At the bottom of each card, students are instructed to write about the event from the perspective of a person with a fixed mindset in the first speech bubble on their worksheet, and to write about the event from the perspective of a person with a growth mindset in the second speech bubble.
1 of 4 FREE growth mindset learning centers! Students explore how to deal with mistakes and failures through a growth mindset.

Station #3

As we teachers know, positive self-talk is powerful. A few upper elementary students do this automatically… it’s simply how they think. Many students, however, need to train their brain regarding positive self-talk. Negative self-talk happens all too easily. Replacing that negative self-talk with positive self-talk is the focus of this station. Students simply replace the negative statements shown in the left column by writing positive statements in the right column. If there is enough time, I also allow my students to cut Xs out of construction paper and glue them on top of the negative self-talk thought bubbles.
1 of 4 FREE growth mindset learning centers! Students explore how to replace the negative self-talk associated with fixed mindsets with the positive self-talk associated with growth mindsets.

Station #4

Another thing we teachers know is that the ability of students to differentiate criticism from feedback is an ability that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. When students arrive at this station, they read the scenarios on the two cards. At the bottom of each card, students are instructed to pretend that they are talking to the classmate described in the scenario. They are to write what they would say to help that classmate view the teacher’s (or coach’s) remarks as feedback rather than criticism.
1 of 4 FREE growth mindset learning centers! Students explore how positive feedback can be perceived as criticism, and how that attitude can be changed using a growth mindset.

If you’d like to try using these stations in your classroom, click HERE to download! Also, be sure to check out Meg's post about growth mindset! Do you need another station? Visit my personal blog, Crafting Connections, for one additional free station!

Also, feel free to check out my PowerPoint and partner plays- just click on the images below. These stations would be an excellent follow-up activity after working through the PowerPoint with your students. The stations line up with the 5 main topics covered in the PowerPoint.

Growth Mindset PowerPoint and worksheets. This file includes directions on how to split this PowerPoint into a 5-day mini-unit... perfect for back-to-school time. Five growth mindset worksheets are also included!

Growth Mindset Partner Plays- 5 scripts students can read with a partner to improve fluency. This set focuses on growth mindset concepts and includes a free worksheet that students can complete after reading each script!

Thanks for visiting today! Don’t forget to hop over to my blog to grab one additional station! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Choosing the Perfect Novel to Start the School Year

Reading aloud to my students is such an important part of my classroom routine!! It's a practice that I like to start on the very first day!! There are so many wonderful benefits to reading aloud to students that there is no reason not to get started right away!! If you are not already reading aloud to your upper elementary students on a regular basis, keep in mind some of these amazing benefits:

  • Read-Alouds instill a love of reading in students and help them to build an appreciation for great books.
  • Read-Alouds introduce students to amazing new genres and authors that they might not necessarily be drawn to on their own.
  • Read-Alouds allow students to access texts that may be beyond their individual reading levels. 
  • Read-Alouds are perfect for teachers to model reading fluency.
  • Read-Alouds provide the perfect opportunities to teach, model, and practice reading strategies and skills!!

With novel read-alouds being such a meaningful part of language arts instruction, it's important to make sure that you select just the right books!! And I feel that it's even more important to make sure that you pick just the right book to start the year out on the right foot!!

Here is the criteria that I consider when selecting a book to start the year...

First, you want to select a book that is going to hook readers right from the start. At the beginning of the year you will be establishing a routine that you will want to last until the very last day. You want your students to enjoy every minute of their first read-aloud, so that you will have them begging for more, even after you finish your first novel!! Some things to consider when selecting an engaging book:

  • Does this book include characters that students can relate to?
  • Does this book cover topics or themes that may interesting or relatable to your student population?
  • Do the chapters end with cliffhangers or foreshadowing?
  • Is the story easy for students to follow as a read-aloud?

If your students are HOOKED on the first book you read, this will only help build and encourage the routine of reading aloud to your students. The goal is for students to be excited to come into class each day, ready to hear a good story. Each year after we finish our first novel, my students CAN'T WAIT to see what we will read next.

So much of what we do at the beginning of a school year, relates to setting behavior expectations and building a classroom community. The novel you choose to read in those first weeks shouldn't be any different. Think about what character traits you would like to see in your students and what types of relationships you would like to see them build. When choosing a novel, it's important to choose one with character traits and themes that are similar to those you would like to see in your students. You may want to choose books that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Encouraging kindness
  • Celebrating differences
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Hard work and determination
  • Learning from mistakes

If you pick just the right book, with just the right themes, you will be able to use your read-aloud to discuss the types of behaviors and sense of community that you hope to build in your classroom during those first weeks.

In the upper elementary classroom, there is no reason that you should not start teaching from the very first day!! Reading novels aloud to your students is the perfect opportunity to start teaching reading strategies and skills. When choosing a novel to read aloud, you may want to plan ahead to see what skills and strategies you want to teach during those first weeks. Then choose a novel that will cover those skills. Whenever I read a novel aloud to my class, I like to use a planning guide to focus on certain strategies and skills, and to outline what I would like to focus on as we make our way through the novel. Of course, I do not always follow my plan, but it is still great to have one in place!! Here is a Novel Planning Guide that is perfect to use when aligning your skills, strategies, and standards to the novels you choose throughout the year.

The first weeks of school are also a great time to teach routines related to writing reading responses. In my classroom I like to use Reading Response Journals throughout the entire school year. Students use their journals to "respond" to the different novels we read all year long. I always use the first weeks of school to have students put together their journals for the year. Click the pic below to learn more about my Reading Response Journals.

So at this point, you are probably wondering "Which book is the PERFECT novel to start the year?!?!" Of course, I have my own personal opinion!! For the last three years, my FAVORITE read-aloud to start the year has been the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. For me, this book has a little bit of everything....

  • The first chapters have students laughing out loud and the final chapters bring them to tears.(happy tears, of course) This book is engaging to students from start to finish!!
  • It is told from multiple points of view, allowing students to connect with different characters. 
  • Important themes are covered (kindness, friendship, overcoming challenges, celebrating differences) allowing for great classroom discussion and community building.
  • A variety of reading strategies and skills can be applied (connections, questioning, predictions, character traits, theme, plus much more!!)

While this book has worked wonderfully for my 4th and 5th graders over the past few years, I know that there are so many other fabulous books out there. When choosing a book to start your year, please remember to consider the criteria above, the grade level you teach, and  your own student population!! Happy Reading!!


Sunday, July 17, 2016

How To Implement Positive Classroom Behavior- An Easy Classroom Management Plan

How to Implement Positive Classroom Behavior-  An Easy Classroom Management Plan


Have you ever had that child who pushed your buttons on a daily basis? Are you having a difficult time controlling your class? Do they tattle, make poor choices, argue, or complain?  This post will provide ideas to handle these types of situations in a positive manner.  Putting a positive spin on classroom management will reduce your stress and make your classroom a happier place!  Students will be more apt to help each other, open up to you, build relationships, and participate in class.  Try some of the following ideas in your classroom!

Either create class rules together like a Class Constitution or provide Five Basic Classroom Rules.  Even if you create a class rules list, more than likely they will boil down to these 5 rules like the following and the class will still feel like they were part of the decision making.

1.  Follow directions the first time.
2.  Raise hand for permission to speak.
3.  Be prepared.
4.  Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself.
5.  Be polite to others.

Speak to students in a polite manner.  If you are frustrated. instead of yelling, “Line up quietly!”, say calmly, “We can line up when you are quiet. If we are late for lunch, I’m sorry.”  Many times standing at the door quietly pretending to look at your watch works well too.  Here is a list of other positive statements.
Instead of calling your isolated chair a “Time out” chair, why not call it something like, "Soar Chair" or "Reflections Chair"? Tell them, “I want to see you soar!” Place a form at the chair to fill out so they can reflect on how to make things better.  Keep the chair in your room, not in the hall, so they can still get something out of the lesson. Tell them that they can excuse themselves back to the class after they reflect on a positive solution. If it continues, send the student to a “soar” chair in another classroom.  Make prior arrangements with another teacher that when you need to use her soar chair, you will bring the child over.  Tell the student, "I really want you to be a part of the class, so write your thoughts down and we will discuss later!" The reflection form can be very simple.
Sample reflections:
What behavior do I need to change?
How can I change my behavior in a positive manner?
I am ready to go back to my seat.  Yes or No
Note to teacher:

Don’t interrupt your lesson to deal with tattling, complaining, or poor choices. Allow them to calm down, which also gives you time to think. Continue with your lesson. Say, “I’m sorry you are having this experience or I’m sorry you are not having a good day. I would like to help you, but not during a lesson. It isn’t fair to the other students. I can talk about it during recess or another time.”

Offer awards throughout the year, not just at the end of the year. Students can collect them in their agendas or take them home to place on the fridge. It is never too much to hand them out monthly or even weekly!  Give awards for things as simple as, “I am proud of you for learning your multiplication facts this week!” or "Thank you for helping out a classmate."  Positive praise is also important.  Don't miss an opportunity to compliment or praise a student.  Encourage students to do the same in your classroom.   A simple praise will go a long way!  It is even nice to call home or email a parent to let them know something positive.  The students will love it!

Offer rewards and it doesn’t have to be candy!  You can just randomly give them a reward or have them keep track of their awards or positive behavior on a card., then give a reward when a goal is met. For example, get 5 stars to get a reward! Pick out of the basket or jar for the reward or have a treasure chest filled with items for rewards. Some reward ideas to place in a basket or jar:

  • Sit at the teacher’s desk.
  • Be first in line.
  • Take shoes off for the day.
  • Sit next to a friend.
  • Pick a free pencil.
  • Have lunch with your teacher.

Implement whole class awards and rewards. It will help students to encourage each other to have positive behavior. Keep a goal chart or fill a marble jar for the class so they can see their progress!  When they reach a goal, then the class gets a reward!  It is a great idea to have rewards ready.  You can either tell them the reward they are working towards or put reward ideas in a basket and pick one once they reach the goal.  Some class reward ideas:

  • Everyone picks out of the treasure chest.
  • Extra recess
  • Sit by a friend
  • Ice Cream Party
  • Dance Party

Give your students choices.  It is ok if you decide on the choice selection, but they will appreciate their voice.  Vote on choices as a whole group (Do we want to have extra recess or watch a movie?) and allow students to make choices on individual work. (You can handwrite or type the final product.)

Find out your students' interests.  This can be done through an Interest Survey.  Make small talk with each student individually.  "How was your soccer game?"  If one student in particular is making poor choices daily or you don't seem to connect with him or her, make arrangements for them to help in your class after school or go see them participate in an after school activity or sport.  Talk to the parents and let them know your intentions.  The child will see that you care and it will give more conversation ideas for in the classroom.  Although it may be difficult to fit in your busy schedule, it can make a huge difference and cause less stress for you the rest of the year.

Have a mailbox on your desk for personal notes. This will open students up  to share things that may be bothering them, but are afraid to tell you. It will also allow you time to deal with the problem. Tell students that they can tell you anything and you will make time to listen or deal with the problem.  Student will appreciate you taking the time!

***I hope these ideas will be helpful to you in your classroom!   If you are interested in a classroom management plan with rules, awards, rewards,  goal cards, reflection forms, and more click on the picture below.  A printed version of these ideas are also included or click HERE.

Connect With Me!