Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quick and Easy Assessments {Snapshots!}

I just got some amazing feedback on one of my best-selling products...


So... they are all on sale!

20% off through Friday!

Check out this old blog post.  I graded these in under 5 minutes and got an accurate assessment on how my students were doing on this one specific skill!

Grading.  It can be KILLER!

BUT... I use "Snapshots" each week to assess my students on a grammar concept and a comprehension skill... and I'm so happy to report that I can grade a class set of "Snapshots" in under 5 minutes... and, since each "Snapshot" is targeted to one Common Core standard, I can find out exactly who is successful and who needs more support so I can provide intervention right away!

So... here's the stack and the timer at zero...

And, here's the graded stack and the timer at 4 minutes and 21 seconds!

I teach ELA to two sections of third graders so, if it wasn't for these assessments, I think I'd spend every weekend grading!  I also love that students can complete these in about 4 minutes and 21 seconds too, so, even though we do two every week, they don't feel "assessed to death".

Click the banner below to check them out on TpT and snag them for 20% off... until Friday!  There are some sample packs available too- you can find them by clicking the link.  They're free and offer you a peek at one math, grammar, and comprehension snapshot for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Informal Observation Goal-Setting Form {Administrator FREEBIE!}

Maybe I'm weird.  But... as a classroom teacher I LOVED being observed by my administrators.


I never wanted to know when they were coming.  I never told my students about it.  I never did extra prep.

I liked my admin to see me in my natural habitat and I craved feedback like crazy.

Now that I'm on the other side of the table as a new administrator, I'm thinking about ways to make this process meaningful to the staff in my building.  I don't want observations to feel like a "gotcha!".  I want them to feel (and BE!) something that helps my staff develop their craft as educators.

We're using the Thoughtful Classroom Framework for the evaluations and one portion of that is a "Learning Walk".

I tweaked the information from my Thoughtful Classroom training to create this sheet that I can use for my informal Learning Walks.  I LOVE that it asks teachers to tell me what they want me to look for when I come in.

It's short and sweet on my end and provides good feedback for teachers.

During our initial PD next month, I plan to ask each teacher to write their name on the top of fill in the first box.  Then I can make a few copies and put them in a folder so that when I do my Learning Walk, I can just grab it and go!  It's not a lengthy checklist or too cumbersome to complete after just a few minutes in a classroom.  But it does connect what I'm doing to what teachers are doing and points my feedback in a direction that will be meaningful to each teacher.

You can snag it for free on TpT if you like it!

How does your administration empower you to develop your craft?  Or... if you're an administrator... what evaluation tips do you have for a newbie?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Decorating the Teachers' Lounge!

Even though I'm in a new role as an administrator, I'm still an elementary educator at heart.

So... my teachers' lounge is now fully decorated!

I posted info about the evaluation system we use... complete with a heading made from the sticky letters at Target!

Target Dollar Spot pocket chart (left over from the good old days when they were actually a dollar!).  This is where we'll display building and subject area goals that we will write at our back to school PD.

A Happy Birthday bulletin board and positive quotes downloaded for free at TpT!  Thanks Rebecca Anderton!

Found these sooooo cute decorations on clearance at... drumroll please... TARGET!

And then put up this interactive "Teacher Talk" display.  Each week I'll post up a new question.  Staff members can use the sticky notes to write an answer and stick it on the laminated Astro Brights!  I'm really excited about this and hope my staff will find it fun too.  I think it will be a great way for everyone to learn a little more about each other... especially for new staff members!  We have quite a few this year, including me!

I can do all things with Command Hooks and binder clips!

You can find "Teacher Talk" on TpT too if you want to spice up your lounge and build some community in your building!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Food for the Teachers' Souls

Well.  It's been too long.

I've been so busy (in the best possible way) learning the ropes of my new job as an elementary principal!

I've got my office set up...

I've been meeting with teachers... who have all been amazing and so willing to work on stuff for next year even though school hasn't even been out for a month yet!, working on scheduling, and... since I don't really know everything that I have to do, I've been working on little things that I want to make sure I do and worry I won't have time to do once the real work starts!

That includes LOTS of professional reading.

One thing I want to make sure I do is keep my staff feeling good.  I read a great book called If You Don't Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students.  Such a good read and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I'm already doing some of those things!

This inspired me to create a set of food themed morale boosters so I can feed my teachers' souls!

You can snag it for 20% off right now on TpT as I'm having a sale until the end of the day tomorrow (6/30).  It features 14 different food themed treats.  Just print the large sign and place with the treats in the lounge or print the small signs and slip goodies into mailboxes!

Here's one of my favorite of the food signs.

This is great for administrators or even teachers who want to work together to surprise the staff throughout the year with reminders that they are appreciated!

If you're an administrator, how do you feed your teachers' souls?  If you're a teacher... what is something you'd love your administrator to do to let you know you're appreciated?

I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How You Know It Made a Difference

Yesterday I spent the day in the elementary building that I will be working as the principal of in the fall.

It was a great day.  So excited to be around little people again (it's a K-2 building... I'm currently in a 3-5 building) and so great to see such wonderful teaching going on.

I ran into the brothers and sisters and cousins and friends of students that I've had in 3rd grade the past four years.

One little friend said to me, "Do you know my brother?".  I asked who the brother is and, we'll just call him "O".  I said, "I love your brother, O!".  This kiddo... a first grader says to me...

"Remember when O wrote that great sentence for you?"

And I almost lost it.

O is in 5th grade now.  So, two years ago, as a 3rd grader, O wrote a beautiful line during our narrative writing unit.

O is so smart, but school isn't easy for him; he has to work hard... especially in language arts.

So, during the narrative writing unit while studying alliteration, simile, and metaphor, O asks to share his writing.

He climbs into the author's chair and faces his class.

The story is about playing football outside on a hot summer day.  O reads as fluently as he can, and then he gets to THE line.

The line about emerging from his house to play football.

And O says...

"I opened the door and nature's own fire furnace flamed on my face."

And you'd better believe this teacher flipped out.  Not only is this a gorgeous line of text and a shining example of exactly what I wanted my kiddos to do... but this is a THIRD grader.  And one who struggles a bit with language arts!

So, of course, I doted on him and praised him and, to this day, still talk to him {and my own students during this unit!} about this beautiful line.

Fast forward to yesterday.

First grade brother says, "Remember when O wrote that great sentence for you?" and I get a huge grin and start to say the line out loud.

And that's when FIRST GRADE BROTHER proceeds to repeat the line to me.  Word.  For.  Word.

That praise that O got that one day in that one classroom all those years ago... his first grade brother knows all about it.  First grade brother knows all about me.

First grade brother knows that O is smart.  O is a writer.  And, now I know that O knows it too.

And that's how I know that it made a difference.

O knows he did something special that day.  And those things I said to him... they matter.

So, the moral of the story is...

Don't discount those little things that you say and do in your classroom.  One hug.  One smile.

Even one little sentence praising good writing.



Friday, May 6, 2016

Ch-Ch-Ch... CHANGES!

Changes are a-comin'!

I'm so happy to share that I have accepted a position as a K-2 building principal for the upcoming school year!  It's in the district that I've been working in for the past four years and I couldn't be happier to be starting this new adventure with such a great group of people!

Stay tuned to the blog for updates and new goodies!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Please Thank Your Partner...


Where are they these days?  Everything is so instant.  And so entitled feeling.  Want a quick way to insert a polite social skill into your day?

It's so easy.

Any time you do work with a partner, when the activity is over you say, "Please thank your partner."  That's it.  They shake hands.  Or say "Thank you."  Or give a hug... we've been doing it all year so, by now, my kiddos are pros and they know that at the end of any partner activity we will always thank our partners!

This public service announcement has been brought to you by... me!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Morning Meeting Activity Ideas

I posted earlier in the week about how Morning Meeting has literally saved my classroom and got some great feedback!  Check out the blog post by clicking the pic below!

Lots of you asked about the kinds of activities we do during that time of the meeting so... ready?

We LOVE this little Chipmunk!  He's from Hallmark.  He asks quirky questions and asks the kids to do silly things.  Sometimes our activity is one of his shenanigans!

I've collected lots of quiz cards and vocabulary games... the Target Dollar Spot has good stuff!  We spend 2-3 minutes doing these sometimes.

I have a set of question dice.  We might roll a dice and a few kids might answer the question.  We also LOVE to do a "20Q".  That's the pink thing in the middle.  Run to the store and invest $10 in one.  It's GREAT for critical thinking!

It's always easy to pull out a card or two from the box...

Or read a few facts from this book.  The kids decide if the statement is a fact or a fib.  We love learning little tidbits!

A FAVORITE is always Mad-Libs.  I love that we're practicing grammar skills and the kids love the stories!

Each of these can be done in less than 5 minutes, keeping our meetings brief but fun!

Hope that gives you a peek into what we're doing for our activities!  Of course, there's free stuff you can do to... we like doing jokes, snapping and clapping patterns, sharing weekend news, "Go Noodle" (especially KOO KOO KANGAROO!!!), and using task cards to play my favorite favorite game "Back to Back", which I've blogged about many times.  You can check that game out by clicking HERE!

Do you have any good, inexpensive ideas for activities?  Add them in the comments below!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Organizing Grammar Games

Am I the only one with a crazy amount of grammar games... that I'm CONSTANTLY adding to?  I LOVE GRAMMAR GAMES.

We play them often...

We do classroom hunts...

We do partner games...

We LOVED this one that had us working on possessive pronouns...

But, my organization for storing them got a little  out of control with so many.  So... here's the new organization!

12 x 12 scrapbooking containers!  Then, inside, most everything is bagged up and ready to go!

Looking for some great low-prep grammar games?

Check out this bundle in my TpT store.  All the random games I've made this year... so fun!

Monday, March 14, 2016

How Morning Meeting Saved My Classroom {freebie too!}

Do you do a class meeting?  Morning meeting?  Afternoon wrap-up?  Whatever you call it... this has saved my classroom this year.

When I taught 1st and 2nd grade, I always had a morning meeting.  Every day.  We loved it!  But, when I moved to 3rd grade 4 years ago, I just couldn't find the time.  I would start doing it but something would come up or students wouldn't be done with their morning work or or or or... there was always something and, eventually, morning meeting would fall by the wayside.

This year I have quite the group.  I love them, like I always do.  But, the first few months were much more exhausting than normal.  To top it off, our class sizes are huge and I have 31 friends in my class.

In November, I was just tired.  My classroom had ceased to be a community.  I was nagging them all day, which isn't me.  My classroom management has always been on point so I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong this year!  I decided to bring back morning meeting and, this time, to stick with it.

It has made a HUGE difference.  We operate as a community.  We have time to talk about behavior expectations.  We get to work on social skills.  We share ideas.  We learn grammar skills.  Check it out...

We start out here.  Students have assigned spots on the rug and they sit in their spots, facing the chair and easel so we can go over morning meeting expectations.

We go over the "Morning Meeting Rules" on this chart.  I say the words in blue.  Students finish each rule by stating the part in pink.

Then we transition into a large circle.

We do a greeting.  Everyone goes around the circle, shaking the hand of the person next to them and saying, "Good Morning, (student name)."  We've been able to practice an appropriate handshake, eye contact... and you should see the smiles around the circle each morning!

After that, we do a quick activity.

I have lots of "stuff" under my easel...

After the activity, students transition back to their spots and we get the "News of the Day" from the leader.  This is something I did in 1st and 2nd grade and I worried that it would be too juvenile for 3rd graders.  But, they like it so much and the amount of learning that we are able to do is incredible.

Here's how it works...

Students chorally spell while I write.  I write exactly what they spell and punctuate so, if it's incorrect, I write it anyway.  We find and fix errors at the end.

We start with the date.

Then, the leader gets to tell us something.  It can be anything... what he/she did last night or ate for breakfast or about a pet or a parent... I have a set of news idea cards the leader can refer to if he/she can think of nothing to share.  Keep reading to grab that freebie!

After the leader tells us his/her news, they chorally spell while I write.

Check out this news from last week... awwww!

Then we find all sorts of parts of speech.  We find adjectives and common/proper nouns.  We can identify whether we have written a simple, compound, or complex sentence.  We find linking verbs and helping verbs and talk about verb tenses.  Taking the "News of the Day" to this level, has made my students experts at 3rd grade grammar.  Seriously.  They are the ones who come up to the chart and circle/underline and they love having the ownership of this.

After the news is done, the leader comes up to the chart and uses a pointer to guide the class through a choral reading of the news.  We work on inflection and fluency... pacing and intonation.  I love it!

The next item on the agenda is a poem and/or a passage.  Last week, we worked on context clues.  So, we had this poem up and we worked on determining the meanings of the underlined words.  At the end of the week, poems are moved to the partner reading table so pairs can read them during ELA time.

We read the poem together, talk about stanzas, get volunteers to read it to us, etc... This week, our poem focuses on onomatopoeias and strong verbs.  We LOVED reading this one.  So fun!

We also like to read a passage from this book.  I read it on Mondays and then we answer the questions as the week goes on.

After that, we go over our class behavior expectations.  These are five goals that we came up with together during the rough patch of behavior we were experiencing at the beginning of the year.  To be honest, we have met all of these goals by now, but the students like having the daily reminder.  Our goals are...

*We will have quick and quiet transitions.
*We will raise our hands to speak.
*We will worry about ourselves.
*We will not argue with the teacher.
*We will treat everyone with kindness and respect (even if they are not our best best friends).

Last, we say our class motto... this is something I heard a while ago and shared with my students.  They have even made up motions for the motto and everything.

"Good, better, best.  Never let it rest.  Until your good is better and your better is your best!"

That's it.

Would you believe the whole thing only takes about 20 minutes?  And... if we're in a hurry, I can get it done in about 15.

So, there you have it.

Morning meeting saved us.  You should try it!

Looking for the "news idea freebie"?  Here it is!

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