Bully Busting 101

Every year students in elementary school face bullying. Whether it is on the playground, in the hallways, on the bus, or even in the classroom, bullying is always an issue.

We have created a quick Bully Busting 101 session that you can use in your classroom to help start the conversation about what to do when a classmate is bullied. We hope that you can follow the below steps to help bust bullying in your school.

Recognize Bullying 
In order to stop bullying, students have to understand what bullying is. Brainstorm with the class what their perceptions are about bullying. This can be done with chart paper or on a white board. Elicit responses from students and write them down. After the list is compiled, try to separate the incidents that wouldn't be considered bullying and discuss why. Then point to the examples where someone is repeatedly harassing a student. These are the incidents you want to focus on.

Be a Bully Buster
Once your students have recognized what bullying is, it is time to show them how they can be a bully buster! We have created an acronym that will help students remember.

Be a friend to someone who is being bullied. Don't walk away from the incident. Show the person you care.

Use a firm voice to the bully to let them know you mean it. If you are shy or timid, the bully will see this and maybe will start picking on you!

Stand up to and speak out against the bully. This is a great time to show the bully you mean business. Don't get physical, but stand your ground to show that you are there for the victim.

Tell an adult about what happened. It is so important to tell a trusted adult about the experience. The adult will more than likely act upon what happened and seek out the bully to issue a consequence for his/her behavior.

Exit the scene with the victim as soon as you can. Try to leave the scene as quickly as possible. The longer you stick around, the more chances the bully has to continue what s/he has been doing.

Reassure the person being bullied that you are there to help. Let the person know that you are not going anywhere and that you are there for him/her. This will mean a lot to the person and it will also show the bully that the victim is no longer alone and as vulnerable.

Role Play
Now that your class recognizes bullying, and has tips on what to do in these situations, it is time to role play the types of bullying that your class listed earlier. Make sure that when you are role playing you pick a few students to be the bullies because oftentimes it is more than one student ganging up on another. Pick students to play the role of upstander, the students who step in to help. Make sure they use one of the Bully Buster strategies. Debrief after each role play and discuss what worked and what could've been done differently. This should help your class see what can be done.

Challenge your class to be Bully Busters! School should be a safe environment for everyone. They are now trained in busting bullies so let them know that it is their job to stop bullying in its tracks!

You can download our How to Be A Bully Buster poster for free by clicking here or on the image below.

Please let us know how your Bully Busting 101 Session with your class went!

5 Ways to Incorporate Real-World Math into the Holidays

During the holidays it can be easy for you and your students to get burnt out on math. After a few years of almost drowning during the holiday season, I started incorporating real-life math related to the holidays and had a lot of success with it!

Here are 5 [of many] ways to incorporate real-life math into your classroom in November & December!

My students go nuts for catalogs and ads. It's a little scary how into shopping they are! Give your students a shopping budget and they can subtract decimals for hours! Have them calculate percentages using their devices to look up the regular price (if it's not listed) to determine exactly how much they'll pay and how much they'll save. 

You can use catalogs to compare prices as well. Students can use critical thinking skills to determine which stores are more expensive overall and write justification paragraphs explaining how they figured it out.

Have you ever cooked something in your classroom? If you have a good relationship with your school's kitchen, you may be able to get the cafeteria staff involved in making holiday cookies. This is also a good way to reach outside your classroom to build community! 

Cooking involves measurement and fractions, two skills students struggle with. Real-life practice of these skills is essential in helping students understand them! Have students bring in measuring cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons so that you can have them prepare their recipe in small groups. 

Don't want to bake anything? Search Pinterest for "no bake" cookie recipes. There are a lot of recipes that you don't need an oven for!

How well do your students divide decimals? Dividing decimals is one of those skills that is hard to master because it's hard to visualize. Grab a stack of circulars for some great real-world decimal division and more! Look for items that are two for a price (i.e. 2/$3.00). Pull out your play money and have students model the cost of each item. 

You can also have students create a grocery list for their Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. We do this every year as a part of my Plan Thanksgiving Dinner project-based learning activity and students are SO into it!

Crafting involves following directions and can also include math! Have you ever made salt-dough ornaments? All you need is a few cheap ingredients and students can practice measurement during their holiday crafting!

Salt Dough Ornaments (Makes 8-10)
4 cups flour
1.5 cups water
1 cup salt
parchment paper & paper plates
cookie cutters and rolling pins

Mix in a large bowl. Have students knead and roll out with a rolling pin onto parchment paper. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and straws to cut the hole for the ornament. 

Bake multiple ornaments on the parchment paper on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours (depending on size of ornament). Pain with acrylic paint the next day (on plates). 

There are also a lot of paper crafts involving using a ruler to measure pieces. You can find quite a few of these on Pinterest!

A lot of math goes into planning a party! Have students work in groups using a specific budget and guidelines on what they need to plan. You can bring in grocery circulars and party store ads to practice the decimal and percent skills even more!

Choose a few of their ideas to actually implement, then invite families to your class party! Students always look forward to class parties and being such a big part of planning it will make them so excited to do math!

The best thing about the holidays is that you can have FUN with your students! Enjoy them and the season!

For all seasonal project-based learning activities in my store, click here.


Top 5 Graphic Organizers for Math

     Over the years I have come to the realization that I am a visual learner. Actually, I think I am a mix of visual and kinesthetic. When learning something new, it really helps when I can see and do it. Is there anybody else out there that can relate?

     So, I am sure that you have kids in your classroom that are the same. Using visuals when teaching can greatly help with increasing understanding. And I am sure that many of you use visualization strategies in reading, but I am here to tell you that you can use the same types of strategies during your math lessons. I hear you asking "How?" Let’s get to the math!

     One way is to use graphic organizers. They are great for organizing content and ideas.  There are many different types that you can use to help students internalize what they are learning. 

    It was a hard decision, but here are my TOP 5 graphic organizers that are great to use during math class.

Number 1: The TChart

T – Charts help students visually organize their thoughts and ideas. These versatile organizers can be used

Best Used For:  Taking Notes, Comparing Ideas, Listing Details for Main Idea, Teaching Vocabulary

Example Math Topic: Multiplication and Division

Number 2: The Venn Diagram

Venn diagrams require high-level thinking because students must compare and contrast 2 or more ideas. 

Best Used For: Comparing and contrasting ideas and concepts

Example Math Topic:  Area and Perimeter

Number 3: The Web

Webs are great for linking together ideas and concepts. You can use them to brainstorm what students already know or to recap what was learned. You can record anything that comes to mind.

Best Used For: Brainstorming, Organizing Ideas and Concepts, Showing Examples, Making Connections

Example Math Topic:  Quadrilaterals

Number 4: The Classification Diagram

Ideas and concepts are arranged by shared qualities are characteristics.

Best Used For: Organizing and Classifying Information

Example Math Topic:  Decomposing, Showing Examples

Number 5: The Concept Map

Concept maps show a connection or relationship between concepts. There are many variations of this graphic organizer. It all depends on the types of connections you want to highlight. This is usually more structured than a The Web.

Best Used For: Teaching Vocabulary, Linking Concepts and Ideas, Showing Examples and Non-Examples

Example Math Topic:  Improper Fractions

Graphic organizers are so versatile that they can be used in any content area and for any grade level.  They assist ALL students with remembering and connecting information because the can “see” it.

So let’s share the love and start using these visual frameworks during math because they are not just for the reading block.

Get started today by downloading these FREE graphic organizer templates that include the TOP 5 listed in this post.

How do you use graphic organizers during your math instruction? Please leave a comment below.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.  For more elementary math tips and strategies check me out at mrelementarymath.

Nonfiction Text & Owl Pellets!

We have been talking about nonfiction text features and structure since the first week of school. Still, some students haven't made a strong connection between all the fancy words and what they mean. This week I have a great motivator for them :) We will be reviewing nonfiction text features and structures using the book "Owls" by Gail Gibbons and my own nonfiction text flip book.

What's the great motivator? After learning about owls through the wonderful book by Gail Gibbons, we will dissect owl pellets on Friday! My students are all super excited and eager to learn everything they can about owls. After our first lesson, I've had students come up to me and show me the non-fiction text features they've noticed in the books they're reading. Score!

How I set up my Reading Stations this week

I have 3 reading station this week: Teacher, Reading, Computer. Each station is about 20 minutes long. During the teacher station, we are working on the nonfiction flip book. We discuss nonfiction text features and structures found in the book "Owls" by Gail Gibbons.

During the reading station, students are reading nonfiction books of their choice. As they are reading, they are looking for nonfiction text features and structures that we discussed during our teacher station. Students get to share what they found at the end of reading stations.

Computer station doesn't change this week. Students are to go on iStation or iXL language. 

Nonfiction Text Features & Structures 

Below is a list of the nonfiction text features & structures we discuss. Click the image to download a free bookmark that students can use to keep track of the features & structures they find in their own reading.
  • captions
  • labels
  • diagrams
  • headings
  • comparisons 
  • table of contents
  • glossary and more!
  • cause and effect
  • compare and contrast
  • sequence
  • description
  • problem and solution
nonfiction text structures and text features printable bookmark

Dissecting Owl Pellets

Our owl pellets get here Thursday. We get to dissect them this Friday, so I will have to update this section with pictures! For now, I hope you consider completing this science lab in your classroom. Students are so excited and engaged that they truly remember everything they are learning.  Click on the image below to download an investigation recording sheet.

Online Resources

Virtual Pellet - I used this resource to show students what might be inside their owl pellet and how to organize the bones they find.
Owl Pellets Song - This is a silly song that kids enjoy :)
OBDK Resources - This is great website that has many videos. I plan to show them throughout the week before we dissect our owl pellets.
HomeTrainingTools - I ordered the owl pellets from this website, but there are other choices online.

How to Handle the Holidays in a Public School Classroom

Teachers often struggle to decide how to handle the winter holidays in public schools. This blog post will help you plan for a holiday season in your classroom that is both inclusive and educational.

Teachers often struggle to decide how to handle the winter holidays in public schools. This blog post will help you plan a Holidays Around the World Unit.

You know your students learn best when they are engaged and motivated. You also know that many children are excited by the holidays season. Their energy finds a way of presenting itself in the classroom so you want to capitalize on using it in a positive way. But, due to time constraints or directives from administration to avoid controversial topics and religious holidays, you may find yourself struggling to figure out how to offer seasonal, academic, and meaningful learning opportunities in a public school setting.

During my first few years of teaching, December was always a crazy month in my classroom. As a new teacher I had not yet perfected my classroom management strategies. As a result I saw an increase in student behavior issues. Frequent changes to our schedule because of parent conferences, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving break, assemblies and special programs that occured annually at that time weakened the procedures and routines we did have in place. I also found I was often needing to unexpectedly leave sub plans because germ season had arrived and as a new teacher I caught everything. All of the above pretty much guaranteed December was going to be a mess.

I knew I needed to have a better plan and am proud to say I did manage to find a way to successfully and enjoyably honor the holiday season in my classroom. I was able to provide my students with educational experiences that kept them focused and used their time in a way that was valuable. The solution to the problems I had each year was to implement a Holidays Around the World Unit in my classroom.  

The Benefits of Holidays Around the World

  • I was able to channel their energy into engaged learning experiences.
  • It provide an overarching theme that offered consistency and commonality when our schedule became fragmented. 
  • Teaching about the commonalities in holiday stories reinforces cultural understanding. 
  • The shared values of different holidays and seasonal celebrations instills a strong sense of community and tolerance.
  • It fell within my district's guidelines for approved teaching topics. Gingerbread and reindeer research were also OK, but Santa, elves and the North Pole were not. You'll need to know exactly what your admins allow.

Tips for Getting the Most out of Holidays Around the World

There are many different holidays, traditions and celebrations to choose from.  Below are 6 ideas to help you plan a successful Holidays Around the World unit no matter which holidays you select. 
  • Consider collaborating with other teachers. You can lighten your heavy workload by each taking responsibility for one country and having the students rotate through the various classrooms. This means less planning and easier prep for each teachers and a whole lot of fun for the students. I’ve done this across different grade levels with great success. I have also done it where we mixed our classes up for traveling “around the world.” The students loved spending time with other teachers and working with different peers.
  • Access your local library to bring in collections of books for the students to peruse. Their interest in the subject motivates them to read and explore all the different titles.
  • Show videos that help them to understand the different cultures and places. I curated a collection of videos from EPCOT’s Holidays Around the World festivities which would be great to stream in class or ask the students to watch at home.

  • Make it a truly integrated learning opportunity by balancing social studies topics, reading and writing skills and creative arts. Team up with your music, art and physical education teachers to plan lessons that involve artistic projects, cultural music and a variety of games or dances related to the holidays you are studying.
  • Involve families by asking them to come in and share their traditions or prepare cultural foods to sample. Most recently I asked parent volunteers to prepare the materials for each country and  plan a related craft. The students rotated through stations to make each craft and then came together for a multicultural buffet which was a really great alternative to the traditional holiday party on the day before the winter break.
Teachers often struggle to decide how to handle the winter holidays in public schools. This blog post will help you plan a Holidays Around the World Unit.

To simplify your hectic holiday season, all of the resources I have created and used have been bundled into one easy-to-use download. To save yourself time and provide your students with an engaging, educational and highly motivating holiday learning experience I encourage you to give it a try.

Also, if you haven’t already read it, I welcome you to grab my FREE ebook to help make your holiday season stress-free and enjoyable.


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5 Tips for Effective Morning Routines

         How does your classroom look after the bell rings, first thing in the morning? Do your students know exactly what to do each morning and the classroom has a calm, orderly feeling, or is it somewhat chaotic, leaving you and your kids with a feeling of stress? If your morning routine could use a bit of improvement, here are five tips to create an effective morning routine.

1. Set Up Easy to Follow Procedures
        Kids need to know exactly what you expect them to do in the morning and it needs to be explicitly taught, practiced, and reviewed. Just like any procedure, you'll need to think through the step by step process of what kids should be doing, before explaining it to them. Things like where to put coats/backpacks/snacks/lunches/notes and what to do first or what to do if they're done early. If you don't explicitly train your kids to follow your procedures, being the wonderfully smart kids that they are, they will come up with their own procedures, and trust me, you probably won't always like them.
        Here's what I do but of course you'll want to adjust these based on your needs:
1. Kids line up at the door and I greet each child as he/she walks in the door.
2. Kids use the pocket chart (shown above) which is placed on the wall, right next to the door, to take roll. They move their cards to hot (buying in the cafeteria) or cold (eating a sack lunch from home) and if a card is not moved, I know that child is absent.
3. Kids hang up backpacks and jackets on their chairs and keep lunches and snacks in their backpacks.They place any notes to me in a special note box (they never hand them to me because I might misplace these).
4. Kids read the Smart Board for specific directions or reminders for the morning.
5. Kids complete Morning Work and then we correct together.
6. We go over the schedule for the day together.
7. We have a morning meeting.

2. Choose Morning Work Carefully
        There are so many options for what you can do for morning work but to me, it's really important that I'm using this time wisely. Since my students spend about 30 minutes a day on their morning work, I want to make sure that it's meaningful, and not just a stream of busy work. For years, I tried to piece together work for them that I thought was valuable but I was never really 100% satisfied with this approach because what I really wanted was something that was guaranteed to hit all of the standards I needed to hit, something that spirals to keep skills fresh, and something that gave my students a little bit of everything (reading, language, math, social studies, and science) over the course of a week. I finally decided to take the plunge and make this unique resource. The great thing is that this Morning Work gives my students the practice they need, and the bonus is that I know the whole year of morning work is planned out and checked off of my to-do list.

If you're looking for a more complete, print and go Morning Work, here are the units I created for 3rd grade, 4th grade5th grade, and 6th Grade.

Want to try a FREE week sample to see what you think?
              Whatever type of morning work you do, you'll want to to have it ready for kids as soon as they sit down. I like to set the morning work on student desks before they arrive. I actually set it out before I leave the day before. Besides handing it out as a separate page, another way is to bind it together for half of the year or for the whole year at a time. Of course if you bind it, you'll need to have the "don't work ahead talk" or one or two kids may complete pages ahead of time.

3. Check Morning Work Together
        To me, morning work is a time to practice skills and to reinforce learning, and should be work that students can complete independently. The process here is what is important to me as a teacher, more than a finished product for the grade book. So, after Morning Work time, it's time to correct and I have each student correct his/her own and we go through the page together. Kids get immediate feedback, extra direction if needed, and I'm not stuck with a stack of papers to grade. It's a win-win for all of us!

4. Go Over the Schedule for the Day
        The first time I created a visual schedule was years ago when one of the kids in my class was a little boy with autism. After learning how much a visual schedule and extra structure was helpful to him, I also noticed that the rest of my class benefited from it too. Since then, I made simple picture icons for each subject area or scenario I could imagine for our school day. I laminated these to use year after year and hole punched the top of each icon to hang it on a pin, which works like a hook. I use markers and write on post-it notes if anything comes up that isn't covered by an icon. The icons are stored in a little box next to my board (in the green box next to the plant, in the picture above) and I switch them out after the kids have left at the end of each day to get ready for the next day. 
        I do know that some teachers like to have times associated with their activities too, but this wouldn't work well for me. Of course recess and lunch are at set times, but we may finish word work at 10:00 or 10:05. If kids know the sequence of subjects and activities, this is usually enough for the great majority of the class and it prevents the "but you said that reading starts at 10:00 and it's already 10:05" kind of thing.
        Once you have your visual schedule in place, it's a great idea to go over it briefly each morning, so kids know what to expect for the day. I do try to sound enthusiastic and cheerful about each activity to keep everything positive so we're all looking forward to a good day!

5. Have Morning Meetings                
          After we go over the visual schedule, It's Morning Meeting time, and kids gather around to share this time together. My students have always loved Morning Meetings and holding these meetings is not a luxury to me. Even though we live in a testing era, to me, Morning Meetings are one of the most important things a teacher can do in the day. Not only do they increase classroom community, they decrease misbehavior, and in my experience make a huge difference in the classroom atmosphere. During class meetings, we share what's going on in our lives, do character education lessons, have read alouds, games, and do quick activities together. I really believe that once you start doing Morning Meetings, you'll find that the time you spend in this social-emotional learning setting will be given back to you many times over!

If you'd like more specific information about how I run Morning Meetings, click here.

If you'd like to read about how I add Character Education to my classroom and to Morning Meetings, click here.

             One of the things I like about teaching is that it's never too late to try something new. If you'd like to make some changes to make your morning routine run more smoothly, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to make an important part of your school day a little better.

        Thanks so much for stopping by and please let me know if you try any of these ideas and how they work for you.


I'd love to connect with you!