Wednesday, February 5

How to Teach Informational Writing


informational-writing

Do you teach informational writing? I do and I used to hate it. I would gladly teach narrative writing all day long, but informational writing? No thanks. Last year things changed, now I love teaching informational writing! Read this post to learn about how I use informational writing graphic organizers, anchor charts, hook activities, and more to teach informational writing in my class.

How to Teach Informational Writing 

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Right now my students are in the midst of our informational writing unit, and we are loving it! My students have researched animals of their choice and are now writing papers to share their new learning. We started this unit with discovering animals around the world. I printed out these free animal pictures HERE to hook them on the unit. For this hook activity I placed a random pile of animals on each table. 
informational-writing

Next, I had my students discuss different ways they could group the animals in front of them. Paws, habitats, predators, and more were just a few of the groupings they created. Then, I had them switch to a new table and start the process over again with the animal pictures at that table. It was such a fun activity and a great way to hook my students into their upcoming animal research writing.

 Informational Writing Anchor Charts

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Next, I introduce my students to the Informational writing anchor chart. I love anchor charts (although truth be told, I am always self-conscious about my hand writing on them). This anchor chart is simple, visual, and just what my students need to understand the informational writing process. This anchor chart describes the components in an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a closing. I keep this informational writing anchor chart posted on my wall throughout the entire writing unit as a visual tool for my students to refer to.

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Informational Writing Graphic Organizers

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The next step I take when teaching informational writing is to introduce writing tools. By writing tools I mean graphic organizers, informational writing graphic organizers to be exact. Guys, I love graphic organizers! It always amazes me how such a simple tool can make enormous differences for my writers! I designed these informational writing graphic organizers for my students last year and have loved teaching informational writing ever since. I break down each part of the writing process for my kids and they feel so successful! I love giving them the tools and watching them take off running, it’s such a proud teacher moment. You can check out the informational writing graphic organizers I use by clicking HERE.

informational-writing-graphic-organizers 
informational-writing-graphic-organizers

Now that my students know the process and have the tools, it's time to get rocking! I allow them to pick a research topic of their choice. Then we work through the pages in the informational writing graphic organizer pack together. I do A LOT of active modeling when I project the sheets onto my board and we fill them out together for my research topic.

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Informational Writing Research


I love teaching informational writing because it allows my kiddos to take charge of their own learning. They pick a research topic of their choice, I coach them through the informational writing process, and the information searching and discovery is led by them. I take time to teach proper research skills so they don’t accidentally end up on a website that will get me called into the principal's office. Once they know keywords to type in and sites to trust, it’s game on and they are all about it!
informational-writing

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Sunday, January 26

What is Project Based Learning?


project-based-learning

Close your eyes (yes really do it) and imagine an ordinary classroom. When you open the classroom door, you take a double look. What is happening in this room? Students are totally engaged; working on computers, posters, and taking charge. Where is the teacher? Their teacher is coaching students and pushing their thinking. This is a fake example right? Nope, this is what a classroom looks like when students dive into a Project Based Learning Unit. What is Project Based Learning? Why is Project Based Learning important? How could I possibly fit in one more thing when my day is already so jam-packed? I want to tell you that Project Based Learning is not only the bom-dot-com, but the thing that single-handedly reignited my flame for teaching. Read this post to learn what Project Based Learning is, and why it saves time and my teacher sanity.

What is Project Based Learning?


PBL Works says that, “Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.” Project Based Learning is an instructional style that is inquiry based and student lead. Project based learning allows students to hop in the driver's seat, while the teacher takes the co-pilot role. Throughout a Project Based Learning unit, students will use driving questions to research, collaborate, and produce a way to show their learning.

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How to Get Started with Project Based Learning


Ready to ramp up the student engagement in your classroom? Try out Project Based Learning.

Benefits: increased instructional time, increased student engagement, giving students the opportunity to take charge of their own learning, and more. Sounds pretty sweet doesn’t it? But the real question is how the heck do I fit an extra thing into my day? There is not enough time as it is, how could I possibly add in something else? I know it sounds odd, but when you implement P.B.L. units, you actually save instructional time.
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Project Based Learning Step 1: align your units across subject areas


One of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck out of a Project Based Learning Unit is to teach it in an interdisciplinary style. This means rearranging your units (across all subject areas) so they align in the most cohesive way. For example, if you normally teach animal traits for science in October and informational writing in February, switch it around so you teach these units at the same time. Why? It is more cohesive for students and it saves you instructional time. Now you are totally focused on researching, learning, and writing about animal traits. This saves you time across subject areas and allows you to dive deeper into projects and higher order thinking skills you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. Go get a scrap piece of paper and write out all your units for the year in the order you typically teach them. Can you rearrange any for better pairings? Are there any common themes jumping out at you? You might have the start to a great Project Based Learning Unit on your hands!

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Project Based Learning Step 2: write driving questions


Now that your units are aligned, you need to start planning. Step one is to find your driving question. I like to think of this as your non-Google-able question. For example in my Will You Survive the Island? project based learning unit, my driving question says, “is survival possible on a deserted island?” This is a question that cannot be answered with a quick 2 second Google search. This is a meaty question that my students will have to research and prove through the course of our P.B.L. unit.

Project Based Learning Step 3: student voice and choice 


Now that you’ve asked the big question, how will your students demonstrate their knowledge throughout the course of the project based learning unit? In my project based learning units, I give my kiddos a presentation menu. This allows my students to choose how they will share their new learning and discoveries with the class. Some options I like to use include a poster, speech, multimedia project, demonstration, and more. Whatever your options are, the key is just to allow students with voice and choice. (Make sure they have clear expectations for each option).
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 Project Based Learning Step 4: inquiry based learning


This step is probably the most difficult for teachers. In this step we must take the role of a coach instead of the sole instructor. Help your kiddos by asking probing questions that lead their inquiry and learning. You are not the sole provider of answers, but instead the guiding force as they research and solve for themselves.

Project Based Learning Step 5: public presentation


This step is such an important one. The final step in a project based learning unit is presentation. This step promotes students to take accountability and pride in their learning. Students will work on a presentation method of their choice throughout this project based learning unit and then present it to an audience. The more meaningful the audience the more effort students will put into their projects, and the more pride they will feel. For example, if your students are studying the best way to promote community involvement and they present to a town selectman, it makes the project feel so real and meaningful.

Now that you know the steps, I hope you take the jump and try a project based learning unit in you classroom this year!

project-based-learning

Want to get started with Project Based Learning now? Check out my Project Based Learning Growing Bundle HERE!


Sunday, January 19

Cheerful Teacher Challenge


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Teachers are amazing! They multitask like a boss and make daunting challenges achievable for their students. But you know what? Teaching is hard! Teachers give it their all, each day at school and for countless hours after the school day ends. With always giving to everyone else, it’s no wonder so many teachers are feeling drained. Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, like so many of us do. So, I decided to do something about it. I designed a Cheerful Teacher Challenge! This teacher challenge gives 7 tasks each week for four weeks. These tasks are created to help bring joy and happiness back into your classroom each day. Join me over the next four weeks as I complete the Cheerful Teacher Challenge! 
Grab your FREE teacher challenge sheet, just click HERE to download!
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Cheerful Teacher Challenge

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Nothing is better than having a few minutes to laugh with a friend. Let’s take time to eat with a colleague who makes us smile. I know we all try to cram as much work into our short lunch break as possible; running to the bathroom, calling a parent, eating a sandwich while we photocopy. Yup, I get it, I do it too. You know what is more important than always being efficient? Your happiness. Each week I challenge you to stop and eat lunch with someone who makes you feel like sunshine. The photocopier will still be there when you’re done.

classroom-organization
If you’re like me your room looks amazing in September, good in October, and by November the hot mess express has pulled into the station. I am forcing myself to take baby steps and tackle the chaos. Each week try to focus on one spot that could use some organizational TLC. My plan is to set a timer for 15 minutes and work on cleaning just that one spot each day. Mission number one is my desk.

building-student-relationships
It feels great when you walk into a room and someone greets you with a warm smile. Our students feel the same way! This week, use the teacher challenge sheet and try and greet your kiddos at the classroom door at least two days this week. You and your students will be happy you did.

building-student-relationships
Praise your students! We do it all day at school, but why not take a moment to praise them when the school day is done? You can’t imagine how much it means to your students and their parents to receive a positive note or phone call from their teacher. Give it a try! Reach out to one kiddo one day this week.

teacher-self-care
Alright, here’s a big one, are you ready for it? Leave your teacher bag at school (for one night). Come on, for one night you can leave that tote stuffed with ungraded papers right on your desk. The world will not end if you take a night off from being a teacher. So pick your night, and proudly leave the building with nothing in your hands.

teacher-self-care
Get some fresh air. Trust me I understand the prep periods are the Holy Grail and you don’t want to waste them, but teacher self-care isn’t wasteful. Take a moment just for you. I challenge you to go for a short walk outside once a week during your prep period. I used to do this with a colleague last year, and I can’t even tell you how much the fresh air and sunshine lifts you up. Pick a day, make a plan, and do it. Breathe the fresh air and get a change of scenery because you deserve it.

building-student-relationships
Student relationships are crucial. They are essential to your happiness and your kiddos. One of my favorite teacher quotes is from Rita Pierson: "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." I know we teachers have a million things to juggle, but this week take the time to build relationships. Start small by building relationships with 2 of your kiddos this week. Chat with them before class, at dismissal, or in the hallway. Find out more about what’s happening in their lives. Take that extra time to show them you care. You will be so happy you did! Want to read more about the importance of building student relationships? Check out these awesome blog posts! Building a Classroom Community From Day 1 , Tips to Building a Classroom Culture , Being Happy as a Teacher , 10 Strategies for Building Relationships with Students , and How to Really Build Relationships with Students .


Those are the 7 challenge tasks in my Cheerful Teacher Challenge! You’ve read about them, now what are you waiting for? Download your FREE copy NOW!

Want to learn more ways to increase you teacher happiness? Click the download button to get your copy of FREE ebook, 10 Steps to Becoming a Happy Teacher! Don’t wait, click the link and get your free copy, you’ll be so glad you did!
teacher-happiness




Sunday, January 12

Super Worksheets for Super Teachers

Super Worksheets for Teachers

super-worksheets-for-teachers

“Real heroes don’t wear capes, they teach!” -Unknown. Teaching is challenging, rewarding, exhausting, overwhelming, and extraordinary all at once. Teachers can juggle drying tears, organizing chaos, instructing challenging curriculum, and so much more all before lunch. But how do teachers juggle all that we have to on a daily basis? We have great planners and teacher worksheets that help keep our heads on straight. Today I’m sharing my favorite super worksheets for all you super teachers out there! Read more to learn about my favorite, no super worksheets for teachers that help me plan and execute all the amazing thing we teachers do.

teacher-quotes

Worksheets for Teachers

Conferring sheets

One thing that makes my teacher life easier is having my conference binder organized and ready for use. I let my kiddos use graphic organizers, so why shouldn’t I? At the start of each year I print out my favorite conferring sheets and get a tab ready for each kiddo in my class. Then I set up a tab for each of my reading, writing, and math groups. Disclaimer: This is totally a time consuming project with all the tiny tabs, just a heads up. But you know what, it is so worth it! This one stop teacher worksheet spot helps keep me sane, organized, and ready to confer with my students. Trust me, in the craziness of the day it is my saving grace to have one thing that is always organized and easy! Plus, it's nice to have one spot in my room that makes me feel like I have my life together. You can click HERE to check out the conferring pages I use.
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Sub Plans

Superheros get sick sometimes too. When that happens, super teachers need great sub plans! Sub plans? Grrrooooaaaann! I know what we’re all thinking; writing sub plans are the worst! You’re right, writing sub plans is no walk in the park, especially when you wake up feeling absolutely horrible. But when you have easy digital, editable plans that you can copy and paste over and over, writing sub plans gets a whole lot easier. I use these editable sub plans to easily make and print 3 days worth of sub plans at the start of the year. I keep them in a binder labeled "sub tub" and replenish as needed. I'm not sure why I call it a "sub tub" when it is actually a binder... hmm. Anyway, I set this up because if I wake up feeling absolutely dreadful, I don’t have to spend hours planning, writing, and emailing plans for my substitute.  Yay! Back to bed with all the tissues and soft blankets! However you choose to set up your sub plans, I definitely recommend writing a few extra days in advance and putting them in a binder somewhere. Don't worry, you can thank me later. Click HERE to grab the editable sub plans I like to use.

super-worksheets-for-teachers



Year Long Checklists

I love checklists! I feel like I always have a million thoughts swarming around my head. Checklists help me get visually grounded and prioritize what I need to do first.. or not at all. I print out one of these FREE monthly checklists and make one for each upcoming month. I will add to it as the month gets closer. I am a total big picture person. I can handle all the little things no problem, as long as I have a rough outline or big picture. This is why checklists really help me. I can look down and see if I need reading assessments done by a certain date, and it will jog my memory to start them sooner. It all just somehow seems more manageable with checklists. You can grab these free checklists HERE


I.E.P. at a glance

I don’t know about you, but honestly, I have a horrible memory. It is what it is. So, I made these I.E.P. at a glance forms and good Lord are they a saving grace! I take time to look over each one of my kiddos I.E.P.’s at first. Then, I use the template to make myself a cheat sheet version. You know, one that’s not 500 pages long. Then, I put it in front of their data folder so I always have easy access to it. Honestly, any little thing that helps save me time in the classroom is my friend, and this helps save me time. Therefore, we are for sure friends! If you want to grab these forms, you can click HERE.
super-worksheets-for-teachers

teacher-quotes 

Super Worksheets for Teachers


These templates and worksheets are amazing and totally help my nutty brain stay organized. However, my favorite teacher worksheets are the ones that are just for me. I made these Teacher Happiness worksheets and you know what, they help me more than anything else! You can’t pour from an empty cup, so why would we think we can teach with our tanks on E every day? At least once a week I look at my Happy Teacher binder and take time to focus on my own happiness at work. You can grab this whole Ebook for FREE below, and I hope you do. You are a total superhero teacher, but every superhero needs a sidekick to their awesomeness. Let this free Ebook be your sidekick and get back out there and save the world one child at a time! Click the DOWNLOAD button now!




Sunday, January 5

5 Free Ways to Build Classroom Community

classroom-community
Building a classroom community can be tricky! We want our students to treat each other with kindness and build friendships in the classroom. But how do we go about building a classroom community? A community where every child feels welcome and wanted? Read more to learn my 5 favorite and free ways to build classroom communities. 

Activities to Build Classroom Community

activities-to-build-classroom-community
Turtle compliments is such a fun activity to build classroom community! I like to do this activity after winter break and then again as the school year comes to a close. This classroom community building activity is super easy and free. It allows an opportunity for children to learn about compliment giving and kindness. Each child will tape a paper plate or piece of white paper onto their backs. Then, each person in the room is responsible for going around the room and writing one kind thing on each person's back. I always tape a paper to my back and join in on this activity. I like my kiddos to see me active modeling as we do this activity and to remind them that I am part of the classroom community too. 

Building Community in the Classroom

building-community-in-the-classroom
Have you ever read the book Can I be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings? (you can grab it HERE) Well let me tell you it is simply adorable and the perfect book for building classroom community! Every student needs a friend in their classroom, and this book is a fantastic way to build those bridges! In this story, the dog Afry is looking for a home and a new friend. He writes letters to members of his neighborhood community sharing about his likes, dislikes, and why he would be a good friend.  Finally, he receives a letter from the mail lady and they team up to deliver letters and become friends. The first time I read this book, I fell in love with it. Building classroom community and it's a dog story, win win! So, I created a template to go along with this story where students can write a letter to a classmate explaining why they would be a good friend. You can download this FREE template HERE
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I love this activity because it always fosters unlikely friendships and boosts our classroom community.

Building Classroom Community Through Song

Ready for the best sing along ever? Have your kiddos do a poll on their favorite songs. Then work together to rewrite it for your class! It is such a fun activity to build classroom community! You can also rewrite a song yourself and then have your students team up to create dance moves to accompany your new class jam. My students love doing this classroom building activity, and let me tell you we really feel united when we start the day singing and dancing together! Not ready to rewrite a song yourself? No worries, I got you! Feel free to use the song I rewrote this year that goes to the tune of Old Town Road. You can download the FREE lyrics HERE!

Build Classroom Community by Spreading Kindness

building-classroom-community

Another way to build classroom community is to spread kindness in the classroom. There are so many amazing ways to do this, but one of my favorite easy ways is called the Top Two activity. In this activity students take a name off the board and write their two favorite things about that person. It is a great opportunity for students to practice seeing the good in one another. I like to do this activity in the morning while students first come in and unpack. I tape the papers to the board (I use Astrobright paper because I'm obsessed with it) and let them pick one up. When they are finished, they will re-tape it to the board. In the end, we have a bright board full of compliments and a boosted classroom community! You can download the FREE Top Two activity HERE.
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How to Build Classroom Community Each Day

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Morning Meeting is a Responsive Classroom style lesson that is held at the start of each day. This style lesson allows all classroom members to gather together and begin each school day on a positive note. It is the perfect place to build classroom community daily! Morning Meeting provides routine and relationship building each and every day. I chunk out a time in my schedule each day for Morning Meeting (about 15-20 minutes). It is so important that I build this community building time into my daily routine because otherwise, with how much I have to teach each day, I would never have the time to do it. If you're looking for more information about Morning Meeting you can check out this great book called, The Morning Meeting Book. It has some great activities and games you can easily implement each day to help build you classroom community.
If your looking for easy ways to get started with morning meeting, you can check out my morning meeting resources. Just click HERE!