Powered by Blogger.

3 Strategies to Help Your Students Make Good Decisions

decision making in the classroom

3 Strategies to Help Your Students Make Good Decisions

It is estimated that teachers make about 1,500 decisions during the school day. That is a lot of thinking and decision making in a short amount of time! If you are a teacher, you know how we have to think quickly as different situations constantly arise during the school day.  If we make that many decisions during one school day, how many decisions do our students have to make?  Luckily, we are adults and trained professionals capable of making good choices using effective decision making skills that we have acquired over time. But are our students just as capable as we are? Decision making is a skill that our students need direct instruction on and plenty of practice, too.  The following three decision making strategies are easy to implement in your classroom and will yield positive results for your students.

Daily Practice: Planned and Authentic

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Role-Model-Activities-2728879Think about the choices our students face each day. Should they focus on the lesson or follow their friend to the bathroom? Should they have the lunch mom packed or grab something less healthy from the cafeteria? Should they include everyone when they play during recess or play a game that excludes others? Children face many choices each day and many involve doing the right thing, even when no one is watching, like during lunch and recess. To help our students make better choices, we need to give our students many opportunities to practice decision making skills in an environment that we can give them support. These opportunities should be both planned decision making activities and authentic decision making within natural situations. One way you can plan to practice decision making skills is to use morning meeting time to present students with situational questions that force them to make a choice. You can ask simple questions such as, would you rather order a bagel or a cheese sandwich at lunch? This type of question provides students with two choices for them to choose between. You can also ask an open ended question such as, should you complete your homework on the bus? This question requires the students to think about what their choices are and make a decision based on the pros and cons of each choice. Both types of questions require students to make a decision, but require a different line of thinking to help students make their choice.  Another way to plan for decision making practice is deliberate lesson planning. This Role Model set includes situational task cards to use during a decision making lesson, to encourage students to make good decisions that help themselves and others. Authentic opportunities arise all day in the classroom. There are so many times throughout the day that I find myself saying, Was that a good choice? Make a good decision. Think about what you should do. When those moments arise, grab your timer, set it for 2-3 minutes and go through decision making steps to help your students make the right decision or reflect on the decision that they made. 

Have a “How To” Make Good Decisions Checklist

Display a simple and easy to follow “how to” checklist to help students make good decisions. This checklist can be strategies that you brainstorm with your students, or it can be strategies that you give to them and expect them to use. Either way, create an anchor chart and display it in your classroom as a visual reminder of how to make good choices. Then make individual copies for students to have for reference. Be sure to send home the language you will be using in the classroom so that parents  can reinforce the same expectations at home.

Practice Decision Making While Reading-Connecting with Characters

There is no better way to help students understand and see decision making in action then through reading books and analyzing characters! Character analysis and understanding character traits is something that is taught and practiced in every classroom, at every grade level. It is very easy to weave decision making discussions into these lessons and any book that you read together as a class. Analyze both the good and the bad decision making that you come across in books as both serve as a teaching and learning point, sparking meaningful discourse in your classroom. Invite students to share decisions that the characters in their independent reading chapter books make with the class and vote on whether or not the students would make that same decision as the character.
One book that is a great read aloud to kick off learning about making decisions in your classroom is the book, What Should Danny Do? written by Ganit and Adir Levy. Not only will your students love this book, but you will, too! With its “choose your own adventure” style format, it is many stories in one book. Within this interactive book, the main character Danny faces many different situations that require him to make a choice. The students decide what choice Danny will make, taking them to a page that continues that story. You can reread this book over and over, having Danny make different decisions, changing the outcome of the story. What I love about this book, is that it is a true example of how making different choices can change the outcome. The decisions that Danny has to make are relatable to students, so that they will be able to easily put themselves in Danny’s shoes.
 After you have finished reading and discussing What Should Danny Do? have your students work with a partner to brainstorm different situations that they have been faced with at school that have forced them to make a decision.  Encourage them to come up with situations that they have been in where making a good choice was difficult. You can start the list with ideas to help students generate situations. Situations you might begin listing: if the teacher is absent, someone starts a food fight in the cafeteria, someone is alone on the playground.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Dpvu3G3-qIU4A1kC5dvzci9w1N3F1KOYRecord their ideas on paper. Once you have a list, cut out each situation and fold up the paper. Place them in a basket. Have each pair of students randomly select a situation from the basket. Working together, students will create a list of possible choices and decisions that can be made about the situation they selected. After discussing the choices students will select one decision that they think is the best to carry out given the situation. Next, have them create a pro and con list about their decision. Students will write and illustrate their decision before presenting to the class. Grab all the materials that you will need for this FREE lesson HERE.
Other books with strong main characters that lend themselves to discussions about making decisions and good choices are Enemy Pie written by Derek Munson, The Other Side written by Jacqueline Woodson and Weslandia written by Paul Fleischman.

Making decisions is a process that must be learned. The process is hard work, especially for our students. Empower your students to be able to make decisions and good choices with easy to use strategies, provide them with opportunities to try out those strategies in the classroom and encourage them to connect with the amazing characters that they meet in books to analyze the decisions that the characters make. How do you encourage good decision making in your classroom? 

Looking for ways to encourage your students to make positive decisions for their own actions? Check out these classroom posters to display in your classroom!
Empathy Posters         growth mindset in the classroom


*Affiliate links included.


Become a Subscriber!

Stay up to date with current teaching trends, lesson ideas, and activities by subscribing!

If you are not already subscribed to my blog, subscribe using the button below. You will be able to instantly download a FREE set of reading graphic organizers.


3 Ways to Infuse Grammar in the Classroom

We have a lot on our plates as classroom teachers. From teaching academics to social emotional development, each minute of our day is jam packed. Unfortunately, because of this, many times something has to be cut out of our day. Many times grammar lessons are the first thing to go! BUT....grammar instruction does not have to be removed from your day. It is very easy to seamlessly infuse grammar lessons into activities that you are already doing!

Morning Meeting and Morning Message

grammar, grammar skills checklist, grammar freebie, grammar free, third grade, fourth gradeMorning message, white board message, note to students, however you begin your day, be sure to tie in some grammar practice.  Some teachers write messages on the whiteboard, smart board, or chart paper, to students with intentional errors for students to find, and then use them as jumping board to discuss the grammatical errors and how to fix them. If you do not want to present your students with errors, you can present them with a correctly written message and call attention to a different form of grammar each day. By simply looking for the verbs, compound sentences, or correct punctuation use such as commas, you are creating an authentic mini-lesson to jump start your day. This is a great, no-prep way to discuss grammar each day. You can use this FREE checklist each week to make sure you address different skills during your morning messages and discussions.

Mini Lessons During Writing Instruction

Another great way to bring in grammar instruction is during your writing lessons. This can be whole group during mini-lessons, or individualized during student conferences. Once I read through the students writing, I look for common errors that most of my students are making. It might be the over use of commas, or incorrectly using the apostrophe in possessive nouns. Once I have identified what the focus of my grammar mini lesson will be, I ask students if I can use their writing for instructional purposes. Once I have their OK, I create a chart paper mock up of their writing. Together as a class we discuss how they can find, and then fix, their grammatical errors. Students are then sent back to their own writing pieces to find and fix any similar skill errors that they have found, or find examples of the skill used correctly to share with the class. Again, this is a great way to get grammar instruction and discussions in your day with very little prep.

Reading Grammar Focused Picture Books

grammar, grammar skills checklist, grammar freebie, grammar free, third grade, fourth grade, grammar read aloud bokMy favorite way to review and learn new grammar rules is to read grammar focused picture books! One book that focuses specifically on learning how punctuation is used is Semicolons, Cupcakes, and Cucumbers written by Steve Newberry. This book tells the tale of four friends with different personalities and “jobs” to do: Question Mark, Exclamation Mark, Period, and Comma. The reader follows them through their day, each wanting to do their own thing and commenting in different ways on their adventures. Just as the day becomes difficult for the four friends with different ideas about how to pass the time, a new friend appears! They all meet Semicolon, who shows them that friendship is better when they all join together. This is a great book to not only teach your students about the power of the semicolon, but also about friendship. I love reading picture books that serve double duty! This book is also a great reference book to leave in your classroom library for students to refer to for punctuation tips as they write and edit their own written work. Use the links below to check out the BOOK and a FREE accompanying activity to use after you read this book!

grammar, grammar skills checklist, grammar freebie, grammar free, third grade, fourth gradeLink to Book (affiliate link)  Semicolons, Cupcakes, and Cucumbers

Link to Freebie Book Companion

Looking for Traditional Grammar Practice?

grammar instruction, grammar lessons, editing and revising, grammar picture books
If you are looking for some traditional practice activities to reinforce your grammar instruction use the link below to check out my grammar series. Each set includes anchor posters for your classroom and
student writing folders, practice activity sheets, and engaging games, too.

Learn something you want to use later? Pin this post! 


Fluency in the Upper Elementary Classroom

fluency strategies, fluency instruction, fluency activities, fluency anchor chart

Fluency is such an important tool for readers as they move ahead to reading more challenging texts. Being able to read fluently, aloud or silently in your head, is a skill that students must be able to master as good readers. So why is fluency so important?
Reading fluently is the ability to read a given text accurately, quickly, and with expression.  When this happens students not only comprehend what they are reading, but also better grasp character feelings and understand the mood and tone of a text, allowing for deeper comprehension.  As students get older, they read silently. As a silent reader they must recall words quickly to develop an understanding of what is read. Fluency, as a silent reader, is the key to connecting both oral reading of words to comprehension of the text, all without hearing it, or discussing it immediately. While silently reading, students are left on their own, to determine the meaning of words, situations, plot, and character analysis. With strong fluency skills, students can understand all that is read in the complex chapter books that they read independently.
This is why in my classroom fluency is practiced daily in a variety of ways! It is important to me that I give my students many opportunities to practice being a fluent reader each day; both as independent readers and as readers who discuss what they have read with a partner, small groups, and with the whole class, too!  Here are five ways that I practice fluency in my classroom to build stronger readers who comprehend the texts that they read deeply.

1.  Daily Poetry Reading
Reading a poem each day is definitely the highlight of my day and my favorite way to practice fluency.  When the students arrive they take the poem of the day and head to their seat. They are responsible for reading it several times independently before it is read as a whole class. Here is what they do:
*First read is to read through the poem to grasp the main idea
*Second read is to circle words that tricked them up and that they either have
to decode or use context clues to solve the meaning
*Third read is to practice fluency, pausing at punctuation and exaggerating bolded or italicized words or phrases
*Fourth read is read as needed to answer comprehension questions that align
with the poems

After students have had enough time to do the above steps, I select one student to read the poem aloud while the class tracks their reading. Following that reading, we read the poem as a class, practicing our choral reading fluency skills. We then discuss any issues in our reading and the comprehension questions. Students keep the poems in their folders so that they have a great typed text to practice fluency independently when needed.

I love using these monthly poetry books by Scholastic for our daily poetry reading. They are organized by season, making them highly engaging for students. Do not let the grades listed on the cover fool you. These poems are perfect for upper elementary fluency practice. With cute pictures and chunky fonts, students are always eager to read these. The poetry is also chuck full of great vocabulary and figurative language. Although there are no comprehension questions, it is easy enough to create a quick question, write it at the board, and have students respond on the back or in a poetry notebook. (Direct links at the bottom of this page to the resources I use to increase fluency.)

fluency strategies, fluency instruction, fluency activities, fluency anchor chartfluency strategies, fluency instruction, fluency activities, fluency anchor chartfluency strategies, fluency instruction, fluency activities, fluency anchor chart

You can also tie together close reading strategies with fluency practice with this set of classic poetry. Click on the image to see more!


2.    Fluent Reading Anchor Chart and Student Reference Sheet
fluency strategies, fluency instruction, fluency activities, fluency anchor chartHaving a class anchor chart is a great way to remind the students of fluency tips during whole group and small group instruction. It especially helps students that are working independently practice what is expected as you work with other students. The anchor chart below is one that I use in my classroom.  I also keep a typed version at the reading table with me, and students keep a student reference sheet of these strategies in their reading binder. You can grab it here for FREE.

3.    Writer’s Workshop Stories
In my classroom, practicing to be fluent readers does not just take place during reading! Writer’s workshop is a great time for students to practice their fluency skills with their own writing pieces. During our writer’s workshop hour, we take a mid-workshop break. Students meet with their writing peer partner and discuss their writing pieces. During that time, each student finds a part of their writing that the feel is written in a way that the reader would read it with expression. Each student takes a turn reading their selected segment with fluency.  Not only is this a great way to squeeze in some fluency practice, but it is also a great way to break up your writing block.

4.    Student Selected Reading
fluency strategies, fluency instruction, fluency activities, fluency anchor chartWe like to have breaks during reader’s workshop just like during writer’s workshop, and the perfect thing to do during our break time, is to practice fluency! During our reader’s workshop break, students meet with their reading partner and after summarizing what is happening in the book they are reading, they read aloud a part of the text that made them feel strong emotions. This gives them an opportunity to read with emphasis and share the mood and tone of the text with a fellow reader. My students always love this part of our day!

5.    Reading Buddies
Let’s face it, kids love being in charge! What better way to practice fluency than with younger students! Having reading buddies allows students to practice fluency on multiple levels. We meet with our reading buddies on Fridays. My students have all week to select a book to read to their buddy. Once they have selected a book, they have to practice reading it for fluency and create one comprehension question that they will ask their younger reading buddy. By Friday, my students have had to meet with me to share the book they selected, read aloud one page to show their fluency, and have to be able to answer the question that they created. On Friday, the students are so excited to share the book that they selected with their younger buddy. When their “lesson” is over, they then read a book that their buddy selected. This is a great way for them to practice fluent reading with a “cold read” book.  As the year progresses and their younger buddy begins to read more, my students have a chance to listen to their buddy read and offer suggestions for them to become more fluent. This strategy is great especially for your struggling readers to practice fluency. It is a confident building experience for them and after each session they certainly do feel proud! 

How do you practice fluency in your upper elementary classroom?

(Affiliate links listed below for the resources that I use to increase fluency with my students.)

If you liked what you read and learned something new, please share this post! 


Welcome Back To School

back to school, freebie, welcome, meet the teacher, back to school checklist

When it comes to the first day of school, there are so many different things to think about that our “to-do” lists seem endless! Many schools offer official "Meet the Teacher" days to welcome students back to school before the first day of school. I love the idea of Meet the Teacher days, and am so glad that my school offers these days, but it is another thing to prepare for! So how can we make the most of these days?

Our Meet the Teacher day always takes place the day right before school begins. It is a great opportunity for teachers to meet their new students and parents before school begins to start building those important relationships! I have found that this day always helps to ease the nerves of everyone involved: students, parents, and of course, teachers!

Our Meet the Teacher day is only about an hour long. Below is my checklist of what I have prepared for the big day!

Meet the Teacher Checklist

1. Provide one on one time with each student and their parent to personally welcome them, listen to any concerns, and answer quick questions.

2. Display books we will be reading and using during the first month of school to build excitement.

3. Have important documents copied for each family such as my teacher welcome letter, school supply list, class list of names, special class schedule, and any paperwork from the office.

4. Display of “Teacher Wish List” items for parents who ask what they can donate to our classroom.

5. Stack of sticky note pads and pens for parents to write additional questions that they have that may require me seeking out the answer or a more in depth answer. I ask parents to leave these sticky note questions on my desk for me to read after everyone has left for the afternoon. After I read the sticky notes, I can answer and respond to them individually in email form.

6. Have a sign up sheet for parent volunteers.

7. Welcome gift for students all ready for their arrival!

back to school freebie, free

The best part of Meet the Teacher day is seeing the smiles on each students' face as they walk into their new classroom, meet the teacher, and receive a small welcome gift. Since the school I work at has a strict no candy or food policy, I like to tie in my student welcome gifts with school supplies that I know the student will use during the year. Simple supplies like pencils, highlighters, rulers, and crayons have all worked well for me in the past. The tags below work perfect for highlighters!

Click on the picture to grab these free gift tags that you can attach to highlighters for a fun and useful welcome gift for your students. 

Back to school, free, freebie, gift tags

If you are looking for more traditional welcome certificates, you can scoop up this version for free on my Teachers Pay Teachers Shop by clicking the image below.


Remember to have fun and relax on Meet the Teacher day! It goes by so quickly! How do you welcome your students on your Meet the Teacher day or first day of school?


Active Reading in the Upper Elementary Classroom

There are so many tips and strategies that we want to teach our students as they become readers. Many of those, however, are just basic skills. The best thing that we can teach our students to do is to become active readers. Active readers are awake, or alert, while reading. Active readers catch themselves drifting off as they read, and get themselves back on track. Some students are just naturally focused while they read, while others will need several mini lessons to help them become awake, alert, and active as they read.
Reading strategies, nonfcition reading, freebie, fiction reading

One engaging way that we can help our students become more active as they read is to have students use different color codes to show what they are thinking as they read a variety of texts. When your students are reading fiction or nonfiction typed texts, articles, or even just worksheets, they can use these color coding reminders to keep them engaged and alert as readers. 

Reading strategies, nonfcition reading, freebie, fiction reading
Color Coding for Fiction Reading

Reading strategies, nonfcition reading, freebie, fiction reading
Color Coding for Nonfiction Reading

By doing this, students are not only engaged, but they are held accountable as
they read independently.  A great follow up activity is for students to meet up
with a reading partner and compare how each of them color coded what they
read. By analyzing color codes both you and your students and will have a deeper
understanding of what thinking goes on while they read. Scoop up these color
coding FREEBIES here.

Here are the color crayon stacks that we use in the classroom. Click the picture for direct link.

Color Coding Pencils
Looking for some informational texts to try out this strategy? You can grab some close reading activities here.

What effective ways do you engage your students to be active readers?



Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog! I am so excited to share some tips and strategies that I have found to be useful in my classroom the past 18 years. Be sure to subscribe to be alerted for the most recent posts and tips to help you in your classroom!  

Back to Top