Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Weekend Homework

I have been putting a great deal of thought into the idea of homework this summer. Teachers who don't have children have asked me if it really makes that big of a difference being a teacher who has their own child. The answer is an emphatic YES. I, without a doubt, have a much better understanding of my parents by being a parent myself. I understand the frustrations and difficulties that they may have with their child's behavior. I understand that the amount of time that is spent as a family after school is both limited and precious. Most importantly, I understand that being a parent isn't easy and that anyone who thinks it is, isn't a parent.

I am lucky, right now. My child isn't in school, yet. I don't have to deal with homework and grades. Though I can't say that I've never gotten a not so happy call from his pre-school. But I digress. By the time I pick him up and get him home, it is around 6:00 (thank you Northern Virginia traffic). We all eat dinner and by the time this is finished and cleaned up, it is now 6:45 (if I'm lucky). His bedtime is 8:00. So, I normally start his bedtime routine at 7:30. This gives me 45 minutes of free time to spend with him. 45 minutes. That's it. So, this got me to thinking. What am I going to do when he starts school? We only have 45 minutes together as it is. Are you kidding? This leads me back to the idea of homework. 

Am I really going to want to spend my precious 45 minutes doing homework with my son? It's not that I don't want to know about or help him with the things that he is learning at school, but I want time for us to just be a family. I think that every parent wants time to just be a family and for their kid to have time to just be a kid. Let's take a look at daily homework in a completely objective way.

For the past nine years, I have assigned homework Mon- Thurs night. My students never had homework on the weekends. My first graders normally had a reading log due each day where they were required to read at least 15 minutes each night and have it signed by a parent. They also had a review worksheet of math, reading, words, or writing each night. Why did I do it? Well, when I first started I was required to. Then after a while, everyone else was doing it so I felt like I had to too. But now, as a parent, I find myself thinking, "Why?" Teachers claim it is to review, but let's be honest. I just saw your child earlier today and guess what, I'm going to see them tomorrow. Not much time to lose what we've learned. Weekends, however, are a different story. These are two full days where there is no teaching going on. No review. In some homes, not even a glimmer of something educational. So when does your child really need to review a skill? During the week or over the weekend when two long days are going by without school anywhere on the agenda. I want you to be able to spend quality time with your child. Here are my ideas for doing homework this year. 

Each night students will be required to keep a reading log. They will be required to read at least 15 minutes. They can read to you, you can read to them, or you can read together. It doesn't matter to me, as long as reading is happening. The easiest way to do this is to have a bedtime routine where you read before your child goes to bed. They love to spend this extra time just with you. Where they have your full, undivided attention. It helps to calm your child down from the day and can also be used as an incentive. Each night I tell my son that he has a choice. He can either go to bed or read a book. He chooses to read a book every time. Why? Because he gets to stall bedtime just a little bit longer. If he starts to get too wild after dinner, I tell him, "Oh no, if you don't stop, then we will only be able to read one book before bed." He freezes and quickly starts behaving better. If your child really doesn't want to read, it may be because they are not confident in their reading ability. Many students will struggle but whatever you do, do not tell them that they can not read! This kills their confidence at school, they become withdrawn and extremely hesitant to become a better reader because they are scared that they will fail. All because someone told them that they can't read! Even if they are having trouble, the 15 minutes doesn't have to be them reading to you. You can read to them. Just make sure that you point to each word while you are reading! This is SUPER important. When you point to the words, your child will begin to notice that every time you point to the letters a n d, they say and. They start to associate what you are saying to the words on the page. So even if you are reading to them, make sure that you point!

This will be the only homework that has to be completed during the week. I want you to spend that precious time with your child and not fussing over homework. With this comes a catch. I want you to do homework over the weekend. 

On Friday night students will come home with two pages of homework for the weekend. One page that reviews the reading or phonics skill that we learned the previous week. As well as another page that would review the math skill learned. I want this because I don't want them to forget what we spent all week learning about. Plus, there is more time on the weekend to complete these assignments. The weekend also gives you more time to see what your child is learning about in school (How much do you really pay attention to their homework during the week? Who has time?). This way, your child only has to do 2 review pages each week and they truly are reviews. No new concepts will go home. It will also give you a better idea as to whether or not your child is comprehending what has being taught in class throughout the week. 

Maybe I'm crazy. What do I know? My child isn't in school, yet. That's why I need your help. Let me know what you think of this idea. I don't want to just spring it on my parents if it's the worst idea of the century. However, if you like it, share it with your child's teacher or principal. I may be crazy but maybe we can get homework turned around to what it was intended for originally. 


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Name Tags for Dummies

I know what you're thinking, "Name tags, really?" I have had a love-hate relationship with name tags for almost a decade. They can be an awesome tool or a straight up pain! I am the type of teacher that when something doesn't work how I want it to, then I continuously try new things until it does. Trust me when I say that I have tried every name tag out there. I have tried dollar section ones, nicer paper ones from the teacher store, self-stick tags, plastic tags, plastic self-stick tags, and pretty much any other version you can think of.

No matter what I tried there were always problems:

1. Students love to pick and destroy them all day long (I have tried bribing).

2. You inevitably run out of them (5 kids don't go by their given name and you had 4 come into your class throughout the year).

3. They all leave sticky, obnoxious residue at the end of the year that you have to hand scrape and rub with goo gone until you hand goes numb

4. Unless you got the ones from the dollar tree (which are junk) they weren't cheap.

 I finally realized that I wasn't going to be able to find exactly what I wanted, I was going to have to make my own. To me, the most important tools on the tag were the hundreds chart, number line, alphabet, color words, and of course their name. I made them so that I could print them out, laminate them and then tape them onto their desks.

Here are a few tips and tricks:

1. If possible use a home laminator. The laminator itself costs about $25 and you can find lamination sheets on Amazon for about $22 for 200 sheets. It is MUCH better quality and will not get destroyed over time (unless you have one of THOSE kids who likes to cut everything for fun).

2. Laminate the tag first THEN write each student's name with a permanent marker. If a student moves or leaves for no reason, just take nail polish remover and remove the name. Re-write your new student's name.

3. Use the GOOD clear packing tape. You know what I'm talking about. Not the stuff that is cheaper than cheap and costs $1 for 2 rolls. You need the stuff that costs $3 for 1 roll. Believe me, it is much easier to get off at the end of the year and rarely leaves behind sticky residue.

4. Print and laminate a few extras just in case your principal walks in at 7:00 am one day and tells you that SURPRISE you have a new kid and they'll be there in an hour.

5. If you have students who are super pickers, put magnetic tape on the back of the name tag and "stick" it to the front of their desk (this is great for a sub). This way they are still able to take it off and use it but it is not a constant distraction.

Click below to get the name tags that I made. There are 11 different color choices with a chevron pattern. Only $1 and you'll never have to buy a name tag again! Just print more for the next year (:

Any tips or tricks of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

Keep On, Teachin On!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Set some GOALS!

I am currently teaching two grades, taking two classes, and I am now in my third classroom this year. How I'm alive is a mini mystery. Gotta say, that even with all of that, I'm happier than ever. In the midst of doing my DRA (our county's assessment) class homework, I have been reawakened into the world of goals. This isn't my first rodeo or my first time having my students make goals, but over time things get swept under the rug. Everyone has their students make goals at the beginning of the year and maybe even again after the new year, but it is rare that we have time to hold our students accountable for their goals and help them to turn their ideas into a reality. I truly think that students need a clear focus, that they came up with, to help them become better at honestly anything they do. I wanted to make something that would hold the students accountable for their goals yet wasn't tedious for the teacher. I created a few things just for that purpose. I wanted my students to focus on becoming better readers but most of this can be used for any subject.

First, I had my students fill out a reflection page that helped them to celebrate the great reading strategies that they are using as well as focus on what things they may need to work on.

Then, I printed bookmarks for each student on card stock (I know, card stock is like gold but they won't hold up for weeks as paper, trust me, I tried). I had everyone pick one goal and write it on their bookmark. then they kept it in their independent reading book. Every time they practiced their goal, they wrote the date at the bottom.

You can use these instead and have the students write the date on the back (it saves some of that golden cardstock). 

Once they had 10 days of practice (or however much you'd like). I gave them a "met their goal" card. They wrote their name at the top, what their goal was, and the date that they met it.

Then I posted the "We Met Our Goals!" sign on a bulletin board in our classroom and they got to put their card underneath. They were so proud that they were able to accomplish their goal that it motivated them to create new goals and work to accomplish them too. 

Once one student had their card posted, everyone wanted to achieve their goals too! It is a great way to motivate students to not just write a goal on paper but to work towards it and actually achieve it. The beauty in it all is that it requires little to no effort from the teacher. HOORAY! All you have to do is put the sign up on a bulletin board or wall and let the students keep track of their progress. You can get all of these for FREE at my TPT store. But hurry. It will only be free for one week! Just click on the link below:

Don't miss a one week give away again! Follow my TPT store and get all of the latest and greatest giveaways.

After a week I will be adding more goodies for math and behavior goals and you can get all of it for only $1!

Let me know what you think of this idea and if it worked for you. Have any ideas? Let me know those too, I'd love to hear how you used this in your classroom!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mouse in da House

You might call me weird, you might even call me crazy, but I like to think that I know how to take advantage of a teachable moment. Right now our school looks like a mini invasion of mice. Frankly, I can't blame them. The walls of at least six ground room classrooms are entirely knocked out leaving the school at a balmy 30 degrees and opening the flood gates to tons of cold furry friends. Most rooms in the building have maybe one furry critter while my neighboring classroom has multiple. Her friends were starting to become brave and were coming out and walking all about while she was teaching her class. As you can imagine, this was making her classroom a constant nightmare of kids yelling and random hallway walks to let adults come in to "catch" the mice. We put down a few traps overnight and BINGO caught one! The head construction guy came and put it in a box and drilled some holes in it. Almost everyone he showed it to was either grossed out or scared of it. I however, thought he was pretty cute. He actually is a baby mouse but looks much bigger in this picture. I have had lots of different pets throughout my life (fish, aqua frogs, dogs, cats, hamsters) but this mouse was a first for me.
I saw him as something that the kids would LOVE and a great opportunity to teach about mammals. Am I supposed to be teaching about mammals right now? Well...umm...not technically, but who could pass up this opportunity. As expected, my students were very excited. Don't worry, the lid is taped on. He can't get out and the kids can't get in. Some of them had never seen a mouse before and I decided that it was my job to give them an up close and personal viewing. Surprisingly, no one was scared (thank goodness). I started to talk to them about how he was a mammal and that he had fur and was warm blooded (yada yada). One of my second grade students said, "A mammal?" Like he had never heard of such a thing. I went on to explain that there are different types of animals and that our super fun friend here was a mammal. We talked about why and made a web. It was a great real-life learning experience. I think that we will write letters to him or persuasive letters to our parents to let us keep him as a classroom pet. Should be fun! They can't wait to see him again on Monday and I can't wait for them to see his new home! 
Hopefully he'll live until the end of the school year (at least). He should make the classroom a little more interesting. Now if only we could agree on a name...