Teaching students to overcome challenges can be difficult when we live in a society that is all about getting things done quickly. We have technology, parents and constant distractions constantly telling students they can learn anything anytime with little or no effort. As a teacher, this is very challenging when students feel they’ve failed, get frustrated or give up right away.
This was what was happening in our classroom. Students that could manage challenges were more successful overall because they kept working until they got it. It felt like it was a lack of effort, but it was much more than that. So we started investigating and researching best practices to help us teach students to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Continue Reading
How do we create a classroom community where all students feel they are equal and belong? It turns out we’ve had more combined grade classes that straight grade classes since we began teaching, so we can’t imagine teaching any other way. First of all, we call it a combined class rather than a split class. It’s the first thing we do with parents because our combined classes are not like the old ‘split’ classes.
When students come into our classroom on the first day of school they immediately collect into two different groups-the lower grade and the upper grade. They don’t know each other well and like to sit with their friends. We don’t give students a seating plan right away (or sometimes at all) so we can see which relationships form or are already in place, but then we slowly start changing their mindset about the combined class.
So, what are our secrets?
Flexible seating-it’s all over social media right now. It’s strange to us that it’s so popular right now as we’ve been doing it in our classroom for over seven years, but there is definitely a trend that doesn’t mesh with our philosophy of flexible seating.
Flexible seating is a mindset-not an opportunity for shopping!
Without building relationships with students first, you will never get them to learn. We often think about students based on their academic gain over their year with us, but we need to also think about their social emotional health and how that has grown.
It is impossible to teach students if they don’t know you.
It is impossible for students to take risks when they don’t trust you.
It is impossible for students to grow as learners if they don’t want to work hard for you.
You are their cheerleader. You are their mentor. You are the push they need or the hand to hold.
We know they are more than a test score. Think about all the things you have taught students that aren’t reflected in numbers.
No one grows ever grows up to get a tattoo of their test scores. Continue Reading
Brag Tags seem to be all over the place, but our students in grades four and five didn’t like all the little kid clip art and they weren’t going to be caught dead wearing a tag on a necklace, so we asked them what they wanted instead. Continue Reading
Teachers out there know that smell…the new crayon. It’s still perfect. It still has all its paper wrapping and is perfectly pointy. It hasn’t rubbed up against other crayons and gotten dirty. It hasn’t been dropped on the floor, or broken in half or left in the lost and found bin with a bunch of broken crayons. And if you close your eyes and take a whiff of that new crayon, you can still transport yourself back to your childhood. For teachers, the crayon smell is a high. For students, not so much.
Do your students write goals? It can be an effective way to have students learn to take responsibility for their behavior or learning. We tried something new this year. Students chose a power word instead of goal. Continue Reading
Teachers are notorious for never really taking a break. We’re super teachers! We never need sleep or down time or family. Somehow we feel guilty if we don’t spend our whole summers getting ready for the new school year.
It’s true-we could spend every waking moment working on our classrooms or planning amazing lessons for our students. Should we feel guilty for not spending every weekend slaving over marking or making resources?
Absolutely not. After all these years of teaching, we’ve managed to figure out that it will still work out whether we spend a thousand hours or three. Continue Reading
Read aloud novels are a huge part of our daily literacy routine. We built in fifteen minutes each day where one of us reads from a novel to our students. It is important (even at the higher grades) to model fluency, self-monitoring and questioning techniques when reading aloud to students and we include these minutes in our weekly Language Arts minutes.
Another bonus to having a novel always as the ready is to use it after transitions like recess or lunch to calm students or to fill those minutes between transitions when you’re waiting for another teacher or moving to another location.
Each year we select a theme for choosing our read aloud novels and this year’s theme was protagonists that face their fears. Our goal was to show students that like real people, characters are not perfect and can be challenged to become stronger. Continue Reading
Being that it’s the last week of school, it is a good time to have students clean out their desks. I did the same and here are some of the random things I found in my desk this year. (Us ninjas have separate desks, so there’s the possibility of a sequel.) Here are some of the most interesting things I found.
1. Chocolate covered pretzels. I always keep an emergency snack in my desk in case I need a chocolate fix. Uh, it’s no longer there.
Ninja Note: get more chocolate covered pretzels.