How to Get to Know Students as Workers and Partners

back to school get to know you activity

As teachers we know that nothing motivates students more than working with a partner or within a small group. This is true for all subject areas. When a partnership or small group works well together there are so many benefits. Some include students engaging in meaningful discourse, taking ownership of their own learning, taking risks and sharing ideas, learning from others, and of course strengthening their collaboration and teamwork skills. And these are just a few! We also know that when a partnership or small group does not work well together no learning takes place, arguments develop, and student relationships become strained.

getting to know you back to school activity
That is why I love to spend some time at the beginning of the year getting to know how each of my students like to work, their learning style, and what type of partner they want to work with during project time and cooperative group learning. By discussing this with students and getting them to discuss it with each other, students quickly learn these important lessons:

  • Friends do not always make the best working partner
  • Everyone has their own learning and working style
  • The stronger a group is, the better they can work and learn

The classroom discussions that take place during the first week of school about individual learning and working styles are my favorite. They not only help me get to know students and better plan partnerships and groups, but it also helps the students to better know each other and their learning styles', and build classroom community too!

Grab this easy to use and engaging partner activity that I use during the first week of school to help you get to know your students AND to help your students get to know each other at the bottom of this post. (See more back to school getting to know you activities HERE.)



back to school getting to know you activity


Click through to find more Back-to-School activities and freebies to help build relationships from the first day of school!







Get to Know Your Students with the 4 C's of Engineering // Kerry Tracy



back to school activities upper elementary











0


signature

How to Hold Students Accountable During Independent Reading

upper elementary reading workshop

If your classroom is like mine, than there are many different reading times throughout the day.  There is formal independent reading time during reading workshop, silent reading after specials or recess, and the all encompassing  "read a book" direction that you give when a time filler is needed.  This means that students are probably reading different books, at different times, throughout the day. With each different reading time comes different objectives and expectations for students. Often time the expectations can become muddled if students do not fully understand the difference between each reading block of time. Taking the time at the beginning of the year to explain the different types of reading that will take place in your classroom is a must! It allows students to understand how they will be held accountable and helps them to select appropriate books to read during the different reading times throughout the day. So what exactly does each of the reading times look like?

Independent Reading

In my classroom, independent reading is the time that students are reading on their own during reading workshop or reading instruction. This means that the students are working on a specific skill or strategy that was taught and discussed in class, and are now trying it out in their own, self-selected, just right book. Although the students self select a book during independent reading time, there is direction given to them before they choose the book. This means that if we are working within a character unit, students are expected to select a chapter book with a strong main character, not a non-fiction book about scientists. During this reading time, students are held accountable for their reading through a variety of ways. The reading that students complete during independent reading time is always accompanied by a task designed to help them meet the reading objective of the day.

Here are some ways that I hold the students in my classroom accountable:
  • Students take reading notes on a graphic organizer or stickies (grab FREE  reading graphic organizers at the bottom of this post.)
  • Students  meet with me for a one-on-one reading conference to discuss the reading work that they have been doing  (read more about reading conferences HERE.)
  • Students meet with their reading partner to discuss a specific reading prompt that I give them about their book during our reading workshop break time (read more about the mid workshop break HERE.)
  • Students complete a reading accountability tracker to submit so that I can get a pulse of  the strategies that they use while they independently read (see the accountability tracker that I use HERE.)
reading workshop set up grade 5

On any given day, students will do one or more of these accountability check ins. This is because independent reading time is intentionally designed to help readers grow. Students are given explicit instruction on how to improve their reading skills and then expected to put those newly learned skills into action during their own independent time. Students understand that this reading time is always linked to an objective and has a specific purpose. This type of independent reading time gives students an opportunity to work towards meeting the common core literacy state standard: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Silent Reading

independent reading grade 4Silent reading looks quite different than independent reading in my classroom. Silent reading is a time for all students to read for enjoyment. This is not to say that they do not enjoy the book that they are reading during independent reading time, but during silent reading, students are reading a book that they choose. This book can be a book on any topic, any genre, and any text type with no one asking them questions about what is happening in the book or what reading strategy they just used. It does not have to be a book that is based on our current reading unit. It is the equivalent to us as teachers reading a book for pleasure on the beach, versus us reading a professional book for a book club or college course. Students may select to read the same book for silent reading as they are reading at home, but they should not read the same book that they are reading during independent reading time.  During silent reading, or SSR, or DEAR, or whatever your school calls it, the expectation may be that you are also silently reading to model to students how important it is to read. This is a great thing to do, just make sure to not use this time to work with small groups. No student should lose their silent reading time. Having a silent reading block is perfect to help students unwind after recess or during the last ten minutes of the day, which can lead nicely into a reading dismissal time. Silent reading usually runs for at least 15 minutes and can go up to 25 minutes depending on the day's schedule.

"Read a Book!"

independent reading grade 3I cannot even begin to count how many times at the beginning of the school year I say, "Read a book." Students quickly learn that when they are done with an activity or there is a transition time, they are to read.  Students understand that this direction to read is referring to their silent reading book, not their independent reading book.  There is no accountability when students read a book during snack or down time, which is why they are not to read their independent reading  book. This reading time is similar to silent reading time, however it is at different times throughout the day, there is no set amount of time for reading, and all students may not be reading. During this time, students love to read magazines or informational texts as they know their reading time may come to an end abruptly. 

independent reading reading workshop
With so many different times to read during the day, each with different purposes, it is so important to set the expectation right from the start of the school year for each of the different reading blocks. Reading picture books about reading books is a fun way to get the discussion going about reading in the classroom. How to Read a Book* is one of my new favorites! A quick anchor chart will also help students understand the differences and help them to select the best book for the different reading times you have set up in your classroom. 





Looking for upper elementary chapter book recommendations? Visit my Amazon shop to see the titles I always recommend to my own students.


Pin for Later!

independent reading upper elementary


*affiliate link

0


signature

All of Your Smart Goals in the Classroom Questions Answered




setting goals in the classroom


Setting goals, as an adult or child, is an empowering experience! It tells the world that you know what you want to accomplish, and you are ready to overcome any obstacles that may come in your way. That feeling of determination is something that I want my students to experience. Right at the start of the school my students set attainable SMART goals, create a plan of action, and then self-progress monitor themselves as they work towards meeting their goals. The entire experience of goal setting is empowering for students as they take ownership on growing academically, socially, and emotionally on different areas throughout the year. What I love about working with students to create their own SMART goals is that it helps to build positive relationships with students right from the start of the year. (Click HERE to read more ways to build positive relationships with students.) If you are wondering how to effectively have students create goals and meet them this school year, here are some answers to questions you may have. Grab a pen, take notes, or pin for later, so that you are prepared to kick off the school year setting student SMART goals.

What is a SMART goal?

A smart goal is a self selected goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and trackable. Setting SMART goals are individualized and specific to the needs and wants of each student. By setting SMART goals, students have a focus to help them grow in an area that they feel they want or need to improve.


goal setting upper elementary

How do you introduce SMART goals with students?

Students need to understand the concept of setting goals that are specific to their needs, design action plans to meet the goal that they set, and how to check in on their progress. Here is a quick outline to help introduce the concept of goal setting with your upper elementary students.

  • To introduce students to goal setting concepts, I read the book*, Salt in His Shoes,written by Deloris Jordan. This picture book tells the story of Michael Jordan setting goals, creating an action plan, and working to meet the goals he set. This read aloud is a great way to get the students discussing goals that they want to meet this school year and also pairs nicely with growth mindset discussions and lessons. (Grab reflection activities for this book HERE.)
  • There is nothing more valuable than getting your students' parents and guardians involved in setting the first goal of the school year. Send home a simple questionnaire for students to complete with their parents to brainstorm and select different areas that students can focus on when setting goals. This gives you the opportunity to see what hopes and wishes the parents have for their children for the school year. (See the form that I send home HERE.)
  • Go over the acronym of SMART so students can digest each element of setting SMART goals. Students should know what each letter of SMART stands for to help them plan out their own goals. Since setting goals is an ongoing process for the school year, create a bulletin board of SMART goal resources that will help students as they create different goals throughout the year.

How do students select a SMART goal?

By the time that students will be formally setting their own goals, they will have had a chance to think about different areas of focus. For the first SMART goal of the year you might choose to have everyone work on a goal in the same area, for example math. This would mean that every student is working on a math goal, but their individualized math goals are all different. Some students might be focused on problem solving, others on fact work. Or, you might have students select any goal that they want to kick the school year off with. There is no right or wrong way to have kids select goals.  

Whichever you choose, follow these two quick steps:

  • Interview each student individually to get to know their strengths and weaknesses. This is a quick process with many benefits. Not only will it help you to get to know students on a personal level, but it will help you to guide students on creating the best SMART goal for them. (Grab the interview form that I use for FREE at the bottom of this post.)
  • Brainstorm. Have students use pencil and paper to record all of the different ideas that they have. They can use SMART goal sentence starters to help. I always use an inverted triangle brainstorming sheet to help kids get very specific. When students have specific goals, it is easier to set an action plan and monitor their progress. Be sure to model the process of brainstorming so that the students truly understand what is expected.

setting goals back to school

How can students self progress monitor their goal work?

Have students create an action plan to help meet their goals. Their action plans will be specific to the topic that they have for their goal, but can include simple steps like: spending more time checking my work, reading more challenging books, asking for help when needed, and creating my own practice fact cards. Be sure to help students know where they can go in the classroom for extra support materials and tasks on the topic of their goal. One way you can do this is by having different buckets of support materials in math and language arts. When they know there are support materials in place, they can add that to their action plan. Another way to add support for students is by providing them with appropriate websites to support their goals. Students will instantly become invested in meeting their goals and will look forward to doing any additional activities that they have listed on their action plan, especially during small pockets of down time in the classroom.

Once students have their action plan in place, set a schedule for students to self-monitor how they are progressing towards meeting their goals. Starting with a weekly check in is a great way to send the message to the students that setting and monitoring goals is something that you value. Be sure to hold students accountable by having them complete check in forms. It can be a quick response to one or two questions that you pose, or something more detailed. As long as students are being held accountable it will help you track how students are doing. (Grab the check in forms that I use HERE.)


back to school goal setting















The goal has been met, now what?

Celebrate! This is the best time to teach students that goal setting is ongoing. Once students have reached a goal, celebrate it, and have them set another goal. Students will be reaching goals at different times throughout the year and that is ok. Once students understand how to set goals, they will easily be able to set a new goal. I encourage students to focus on a different area for each new goal. Remember goals that students set can be academic, social, or behavioral. Encourage students to mix up which types of goals that they are setting.

Setting SMART goals is a great way to kick off the school year and set the tone for students that they will be working hard this year as individuals meeting their own goals. It also helps you to build strong relationships with students on an individual level, showing each and every student that you are invested in their success. By doing this, you are setting up a positive climate in your classroom where students feel valued. (Click HERE for easy to implement tips on setting up your classroom community this school year.)

See all of the activities that I do with my upper elementary students to help them set and track their SMART goals HERE.


Pin for Later.

back to school goal setting


*affiliate link


0


signature

How To Advice for Building Positive Relationships with Students

how to build student relationships

When prepping  for the new school year, planning to build student relationships is always at the top of my list. The time spent building student relationships is the best time you will spend all year long. As teachers we often feel overwhelmed with everything we need to get done in one school day and are always looking for more time. Building student relationships is critical to ensuring a successful school year for our students, a safe classroom community, and a well managed classroom.

It does not take much time out of your day to build those important relationships with students. Both by planning ahead of time and by using classroom down time to build student relationships you will easily be able to engage in meaningful conversation and build the bond between you and each student as individuals. (Read more about building classroom community HERE.) 

Here are some quick and easy to implement tips for building student relationships:

Hello there, and Goodbye!

Get away from the computer and your desk! Our time is limited and we always have so many clerical things to do on the computer, but by standing at the door to welcome and greet students individually by name, asking about their day or weekend, and smiling with eye contact makes a huge impact on students and how they feel about coming to school each day. Repeat this process in the afternoon as they leave with a high five and it will have the students leaving on a positive note, no matter how their day went. 

Build Trust

By building trust with your students you are telling them that you will not let them fail. You are allowing them to feel safe and take risks in the classroom. One way to do this is to understand each child's learning style.  You can have them take a formal quiz like this one, or ask them one simple question (see below) to determine their learning preference: auditory or visual. By presenting lessons in ways that will ensure each child's success the trust students have in you will strengthen.  Grab that all important question on the inventory form I use with my students for FREE at the bottom of this post.

how to build student relationships

Get to Know the Complete Child

It does not take long for our teacher instinct to kick in and we instantly know the students academically. But to truly get to know each student take the time to get to know their interests, hobbies, friends outside your classroom, and their hopes and dreams. One simple way to do this is with a quick student inventory. You can interview each child one on one during the first week of school and take notes, or you can have each student complete an inventory form independently. Grab the inventory form I use with my students for FREE at the bottom of this post. Don't forget to complete this periodically throughout the year as students change.

Set Goals and Check In

Helping students sent individualized goals is a great way to show them you are invested in them and their success! Whether you set academic, behavioral, or social emotional goals, be sure to set a goal plan to help them meet their goal. Check in weekly or bi-weekly to discuss their progress and set new goals as needed.  (See more about how I organize student goal setting HERE.)

Building relationships with students is a must! The time spent building and strengthening relationships all year long is well worth the time investment. 

Love these ideas? Pin for later!



Check out the advice from my upper elementary teacher friends. Click to learn more about their tip for a successful school year and grab free reflection tools, checklists, questionnaires, and more! 


Kerry Tracy of Feel-Good Teaching says, "Take the time to reconnect with your calling to get you






Brittany Hege of Mix and Math says, “Incorporate call and response chants as part of your

Laura Hurley of Reading by Heart says, "Build decoding independence by giving your readers white

Kathie Yonemura of Tried & True Teaching Tools says, “Find your teacher tribe!”






0


signature

6 Items Every Teacher Needs in Their Classroom




When it comes to back to school shopping for teachers many typical school supplies make the top of the list: markers, chart paper, bulletin board paper, and colorful pens. While those items are always on my shopping list, too, there are a few items that I just cannot live without in my home away from home…my classroom! 

Here are my favorite must haves* for any classroom teacher!


All that talking, especially during the first two weeks, makes me thirsty! I love having water on my desk all day long. I need my water cold and fresh which is why I LOVE swell water bottles! No mini-fridge, no problem! These literally keep my ice cubes in tact all day long and are a great investment to use all year long.  See all the pretty colors and designs HERE. Also check out these S'ip water bottles that are made by Swell. These also work well to keep your drinks cold all day! Not a cold drink lover? These bottles will keep your tea or coffee hot, as well! Everybody wins!


I literally use this almost every day! If you have not heard of these you are missing out! It is a simple hot water kettle that you fill up, plug in, turn on, and in about three minutes you have boiling water! If you are an avid tea drinker like me, it is just perfect to have in your classroom. I keep a box of my favorite teas and honey in a small Tupperware container right next to my kettle. I love to offer tea to my colleagues if we are meeting in my classroom and to parents during parent teacher conferences. It works wonders to set the mood and make your classroom feel like home. These are so easy to use and clean, that you will want one for your actual home, too! THIS is the one that I have had for years and it is still going strong!


When I first started teaching, many moons ago, I did not have to wear an ID badge. Today they are a must! I also like to keep my classroom key on my lanyard. If I take off my ID cards, I can pretty much guarantee that I will lose it, which means I am locked out of the school and classroom and will then need to buy another one.  That is why I absolutely need to have a lanyard that I LOVE to wear. These lanyards from Scarlett of Eden are too adorable and calming to even think about taking off! They are hand made with clay beads that I love to hold in my hands and turn throughout the day. You will instantly become addicted to twirling those hand crafted beads, too! #teacherfidgetspinner 


Real talk: my first few years of teaching I literally said, "Where is the pen?" about one hundred times a day at every sign out spot in the classroom. Then I found the teacher's dream school supply: the pen on the chain. I am not even sure the official name, but that is what I call it! I keep these bad boys all over my classroom: on the bathroom sign out clipboard, the classroom library check out clipboard, the morning meeting book talk sign up clipboard, are you seeing a pattern? I love that my kids cannot walk away with my pen, saving the next student that needs to sign up, in, or out, the trouble of finding a writing tool.  Worried what will happen when the ink runs out? Don't be! Just grab the replacement pen and you are good to go! You're welcome! See these teacher life saving pens HERE.


There's an alphabet for that! I taught third graders for 16 glorious years. I loved teaching cursive and I loved having a beautiful cursive alphabet above my board for student reference. It made my classroom feel classic, timeless, and just plain complete. Can you relate? So needless to say, the year I was moved to a fifth grade math and science position, my first thought was, "Can I have a cursive alphabet still?" That is why I created a standards aligned cursive math alphabet to hang above my board. I loved having an alphabet with such valuable meaning and intention so much, that I also created an NGSS aligned science alphabet to hang along the back wall.  These unique cursive alphabets allowed me to have both a cursive alphabet AND a vocabulary resource for my students. The moment it was hung up, my classroom felt classic and timeless once again, problem solved! See them both HERE.



Fun + purpose = instant engagement! Having a microphone in the classroom not only ups the fun factor of students reading aloud and sharing their own writing, but it also helps students' voices be heard; literally!  We all have that student who speaks and reads quietly. By amplifying their voice, all students can hear and understand what they are saying, allowing that student to build confidence each time they share! Using a microphone also increases student participation. Students who rarely, or never participate will love to use the microphone to share! Get a closer look at all of its awesomeness HERE.

These unique back to school items will surely up the comfort level in your classroom and once you have them all, you will wonder how you got by without them! Read my Meet the Teacher Checklist and scoop up FREE back to school welcome tags HERE.

Looking for more back to school items, check out these resources to help kick off your year in style!



Don't forget to pin this list for later!





Looking for timeless classroom decor? Click HERE.







*affiliate links
0


signature

Highly Effective Strategies for Launching Reading Workshop



reading workshop kick off upper elementary



There is nothing more exciting than the first few days of school! I love the smell of fresh pencils, the bright colors on the bulletin boards that have yet to be faded, and the eager faces of the students scanning the shelves of their new classroom library looking for their first read of the year. Preparing to launch reading workshop is by far, my favorite part of those first few days and weeks of school. I love reading aloud to my students, teaching reading strategies, talking about books, and of course helping them understand how to grow as readers during our workshop time.

If you are getting ready to launch your first reading workshop, or if you are looking for more ideas to enhance your already crafted workshop launching lessons, these tried and true tips and strategies will make your planning and running your reading workshop time stress free!

readers workshop kick off upper elementaryDon’t let the planning portion of running reading workshop stress you out! Since the workshop model follows a consistent routine, once you get the hang of the system, it is easy to duplicate, day after day. Click HERE to read how I plan for the 3 important parts of each reading workshop lesson and grab FREE workshop planning templates, too!


readers workshop kick off upper elementary
Reading workshop is highly effective for growing readers! The most important part of launching the reading workshop model is the mini-lesson. But sticking to an only ten minute mini lesson can be a challenge!  Click HERE to read my best 6 tips for keeping those all important mini lessons mini and scoop up some FREE reading workshop goodies, too!

reading workshop kick off upper elementary
One important focus of reading workshop is to build student stamina. One way to increase students’ stamina is to use the mid-workshop break. This strategy needs to be taught to your students, but once they understand how to use their break time, it will truly help them grow as readers! Click HERE to read my 3 favorite ways to effectively use the mid workshop break to engage readers of all levels and grab a FREE partnership discussion guide to keep students engaged in meaningful discourse!


reading workshop model in upper elementary classroomReading conferences are the highlight of my reading workshop block! I love to get right next to students in their working area, discuss the book that they are reading, and offer them their own personalized mini lesson to help them grow as readers! Click HERE to find out my 3 best and easy to implement tips for reading conference success. You won’t want to miss these ideas to keep your conferences on track to help your students succeed as readers! Scoop up some reading workshop freebies, too!

I truly believe in the workshop model to help students not only grow as readers, but to love reading, too. By using this model, you not only grow students as individual readers, but you create a classroom culture and climate that truly loves reading and all things books! 

Pin now to save these ideas for your reference later!




0


signature

End of Year Must Do: Teacher, Student, and Parent Reflections


end of year activities


There are many things on our teacher end of year to-do list, from cleaning our classrooms to completing the final assessments and report cards, our to-do list grows longer each day.  Even though we work hard to check everything off of our to do lists, adding this one more thing to your list will be the best thing you do all year! (Click HERE for end of year read alouds ideas and freebies.)

One non-negotiable that should be on every teacher's end of year to do list is reflecting on the school year.  Reflecting is such an important part of being a teacher. By being reflective thinkers we are able to hone our teaching skills, perfect our strengths, and set goals for the upcoming year to further improve ourselves as educators. I use a three step reflection process to help me truly understand how the year went. I begin by reflecting on myself, I ask my students to reflect on their year, and I ask their parents to reflect on the year as well. By gathering invaluable information from my students and their families in the form of reflections, I can gain invaluable perspectives about the classroom community I am building, the lessons that I teach, and the projects that I assign. 

Quick Teacher Tips:
1. Have parent and students complete reflection pages anonymously.
2. Stay positive about all reflections, they are meant to help us refine our skills. Do not get upset with suggestions from students or parents. Use their feedback in preparing for your upcoming year to make improvements.
3. After reading the submitted reflections from parents and students, make a checklist of three things to focus on changing or modifying for the next school year. We can not work on everything, so select the top three that you want to focus on improving.

Try this: Reflect monthly on your teaching practices. Then at the end of the year reflect on your monthly reflections. This will make reflecting on your teaching practices at the end of the year much easier.


end of year activities


Reflecting is a simple way to set goals and improve your teaching practices. It also sets a focus for upcoming PD you may wish to attend. Be sure to add reflecting on your end of year to do list. Make your own reflection forms that reflect how you ran your classroom, or grab the set that I use for FREE at the bottom of this post. You will love reading the reflections from your students and their families. Enjoy the end of the year with your students! 
(Want more ways to involve your students' families into your classroom as the school year draws to end? Click HERE.)

How do YOU reflect on your teaching practices? Share below!


PIN FOR LATER:
end of year activities



Click the picture below for more engaging end of year activities!



end of school year activities



Check out these other FREE and EASY  to implement ideas to end your school year with a bang!
0


signature
Back to Top