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What is Mindfulness? How can it Benefit Students in My Classroom?



Have you ever wondered:

  • what was I coming into this room to get?
  • what streets did I take to get here?
  • what did he just say?

These are scenarios that most of us can relate to. They are all examples of situations where our mind was, well for a lack of a better word, somewhere else. It was not in the present moment. Our mind was full, but not "MINDFUL."


What is Mindfulness?

Being present in the moment.

Obstacles to being Mindful?

  • Tiredness
  • Hunger
  • Boredom
  • Stress and Anxiety

Good News! 
Teachers can directly affect some of these obstacles. For example, supply hungry students with a snack, control boredom with engaging lessons.

Bad News! 

Teachers can NOT directly affect some of these obstacles. We can not control the amount of hours they sleep, home life stresses, and other factors.

According to the Washington Post article you can find here, neurological research shows that traumatic experiences can transform the developing brain by altering chemical balances which make it more difficult for students to concentrate, build relationships and make connections. All which are necessary skills for performing well in school. 

GREAT NEWS! 

We CAN provide students with Mindful techniques to help reduce these stresses and help them focus better, as well as help them cope with other stresses.

BEST NEWS!!! 
It doesn't take much time. 

Some Mindfulness Techniques to Offer Your Class as a WHOLE:



  • Meditation (You may use videos such provided by Go Zen! or GoNoodle)




  • Listen to Soft Calming Music

  • Journaling (Ex. Gratitude Journal, List Things You See or Hear...)
  • Gazing out the Window or at a Picture
  • Create a Drawing
(This picture was found on Pinterest with no landing page, but serves as ideas for quick draws.)

Sometimes students need a moment to step away from a situation or activity that is causing them distress in the classroom, but you don't want to stop the entire class to participate in a "Mindful" activity. You can teach students how to identify the emotions they are feeling, and instead of reacting to them, they can find a quick activity that can help redirect their negative feelings. This will then allow them to refocus on the task at hand quickly and effectively. 


Some Other Mindfulness Techniques Students can use INDIVIDUALLY:


  • Go for a Mindful Walk
Take a minute to walk around outside paying attention to the movement of your body, look around being aware of what you see, or close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. 


  • Play with Play-Doh or a Stress Ball
Squeeze the Play-Doh or stress ball tightly and hold it for three seconds. Slowly release the grip watching as the shape changes.


  • Pick up a Sensory Water Bottle and Observe It
Shake is softly, place it on a table and watch the glitter slowly make its way down to the bottom of the bottle. 


  • Grab a Minute Timer and Watch the Sand Descend
Grab a sand timer, flip it, and watch the sand descend into the bottom half.


These various techniques should be introduced to students in an introductory lesson. There are various follow-up activities the class can participate in to help students best understand what their options are if, and when, they feel unfocused or distressed.  

Various Mindfulness Reference Activities Students can Do After Brainstorming Techniques:

  • Draw a Mindful Picture with Techniques Shown
  • Make a List in a Journal
  • Make a Flip Book
  • Write Top Five Options on an Index Card to Place in a Binder
  • Complete a Class Anchor Chart 



Which ever follow-up activity you select, it should result in a resource that students can refer back to when they need some time to refocus themselves into the present moment. 

Books You Can Use in the Classroom to Support Mindfulness:







Hopefully, this post has given you some new ideas you can implement with your students.

If you would like a resource that students can use to record notes or activity ideas you may download the FREE resource below by clicking the image. 




To get more information on mindfulness, follow my Pinterest board below. I will continue to post great articles, books, and videos I find related to this topic. 





Happy Teaching! 
                             

Thrifty Alert: Popular Book Titles for Only a Dollar? Yes, Please!





     You may think I'm crazy thinking about next year already when I should probably be thinking about my days of soaking up the sun, which will be here soon. However,  I just couldn't pass up the great, wonderful, PHENOMENAL deals on these popular book titles going on RIGHT NOW at Scholastic Reading Club. Popular book titles by infamous authors for only $1! Yes, you are reading correctly... ONE DOLLAR!
      If you aren't signed up yet, its absolutely FREE to do so, and pretty much any teacher can sign up. The titles I presently found for only a dollar are pictured below. I bought "Frindle" and "Tiger Rising" for my reading groups and just HAD to buy a few others to add to my classroom library. I mean seriously, $1 for a NEW book, from a well known author, which my students will love....(insert happy dance here). One more hint!  If you order $20 worth of books, shipping is FREE!
      I have hyperlinked the books so it can take you directly to the book since they are found in different catalogs within the site. I am also including the item number in case the link doesn't work correctly since you have to be logged in to see the titles. 





Suggestions for titles:

- Guided Reading Set
- Class Set for Novel Study
- Addition to your Classroom Library
- End of the Year Gift for your Students 


Item: 22P6


Item: 090253


Item: 5A9

Item: 42G9

Item: 25A7


Item: 091087

Item: 82D5

     Will you be picking up any of these books?  If so, I would love to hear how you plan on using them. 

Happy Reading!!!
 

Classroom Transformation - Italian Restaurant (Punctuano's Ristorante Italiano) for Commas and Periods





     Classroom transformations have been so successful in my classroom, that I have done two in just about a month and a half. They are a great way to get students excited to work in class without even realizing it. 

     The idea for this classroom transformation was inspired by Kim Bearden from the Ron Clark Academy. My students had just learned six different uses for commas (appositives, words in a series, with conjunctions, introductory words, noun of direct address, and with quotation marks) using the resource found HERE. I then wanted to assess their knowledge using an authentic assessment that was engaging. Once I saw Kim's idea, I knew I had to create something with this theme for my own students. 


     I headed to my nearest Party City and Dollar Tree to purchase plastic cups, plastic plates, pasta, plaid table clothes, and LED light 'candles.'  I also set up glue bottles and a pink flower at the end of the table next to a sign that read, "Today's Specials: Commas and Periods."  (You can see the set up pictured below.) The best thing about this classroom transformation was that it cost less than $20. Of course, you can have parents donate items and it would come out practically free, but I thought this up so last minute, that I decided to get all of the items myself.







       Students first had to edit the restaurant's "Reviews."  This is where students added missing periods and commas used with quotation marks.  Next, they had to read a text titled "All About Pizza." Once they read the text, they had to go back to add the missing commas and periods using pasta pieces. They would dip the pasta piece in the "dipping sauce," also known as glue, and adhere it onto their paper. 

     The last step was to create their own dish. Here students had to write their own sentences using the directions given. For example, one task was to write a sentence that includes a comma to set off an introductory word. 


     To add to the ambiance, I had a large welcome sign displayed on the projection board and Italian music playing in the background.  







     Finally, we came together at the end and went over the results. Students had to state what punctuation marks they added in each sentence and state the reasons why. Students thoroughly enjoyed the transformation and were engage for well over an hour with this activity

     



     Fortunately, this was an easy set up taking. It only took about 15 minutes to set up from beginning to end. This theme could easily be adapted for younger students where they would need to add periods at the end of sentences. It can also be used for other grammar skills such as quotation marks and apostrophes for contractions or possessive nouns. 
     
     Have you tried any classroom transformations in your classroom? If so, I'd love to hear about it below. 

Classroom Transformation - Roots and Affixes Surgery Room


        Keeping students engaged and motivated, especially at the end of the year, can be quite a challenge. For this reason, I have really been evaluating the best ways to keep students excited to come to class and "work." Now I placed the word work in quotation marks because in the last few weeks I have done two classroom transformations which made the students feel like they were playing instead of working. You may be asking yourself, "What grade does she teach?" or thinking, "I wonder if this would work with older students?" The answers are FIFTH GRADE and YES! 

        In this post I will share the Surgery Room transformation I did in my classroom. It was a method  I used to evaluate students understanding of Roots and Affixes. The activity was rigorous and enriching since students really had to use higher order thinking skills to complete the tasks assigned. Now, of course you can implement this transformation for many other skills such as grammar, compound words, contractions, etc. The sky is the limit here. You can probably even find some other implementations of this transformation on Pinterest or by using a search engine.

      To give you some background, students had previously learned prefixes and suffixes in class, as well as, had a crash course in Roots, using the Root of the Week resource I created for them. Students were given a written test on the meanings of the roots we had studied, and were informed that only students who received an A or a B on their "Certification Exam" would be able to participate. Boy, were those students motivated to pass their exam. Students were informed that those who passed would receive a Certificate of Advanced Education in Roots and Affixes Surgery from the Roots and Affixes Transplant Center. They would now be ready to participate in tomorrow's surgeries.  



     It was a priority for me to have students master their roots before participating because this activity would be rigorous, and those students who were not prepared would be unable to contribute, resulting in behavior management issues. In order to help them prepare they participated in "Buddy Study" and games such as "Quiz, Quiz, Trade." 

     In order to set the stage to engage for our Surgery Room, I had to make several inexpensive purchases. Many of these purchases I will keep together in a box to use again next year, while others I will have to repurchase. 



       The first purchases I made were white and light blue table clothes, rope and clothes pins from Dollar Tree. I hung the rope across the room and secured white table clothes with clothes pins to act as the dividing curtains for the surgery rooms. Next, I placed a light blue table cloth on each table to act as the operating table. 


       I also purchased 6 pairs of scissors (2 in a pack) , 6 glue pens (3 in a pack), masks (10 in a pack) and 6 cookie sheets at the Dollar Tree. Shower caps were bought at CVS and the gloves were donated by a friend of mine who is a nurse, however, they do sell gloves at Dollar Tree and CVS. I set up the trays as shown above with the glue pens, two pens, a pen, gloves, masks, caps, a plastic bag with mini bandages and "Operating Room #__" signs. In each operating room there was also a clipboard with recording sheets and a folder with "patients" and "donors" inside. 


    Each pair of patients and donors were placed in their own individual page protector. Students were only to work with one pair at a time. After all, surgeons will not have multiple surgeries going on in one room. That would just be a disaster! 

     As students walked into the classroom, I had them sit on the floor in front of our projection board. This was our pre-op meeting. We discussed the "Transplant Procedures" which I had posted on the board, I pinned their name tags on them (similar to the one shown below), and assigned them to an operating room (4 students per room). 


                                 (Scrubs for myself were purchased at 
                                Walmart for $5.96 for the top and $5.96
                                 for the bottom.)

     Once in the operating room, students had to assign jobs. This went rather smoothly. Only one pair of students wanted the same job, so we rolled a dice to help us assign the role. 

     The first role, was the "Patient Prepper."  This person was responsible for pulling the "Donors" and "Patients" out of the "Holding Room" one pair at a time. They introduced the patient and the donor to the staff. 

                                                 (Patient Prepper)

   The next role was the "Surgeon."  This person would be responsible for informing the staff what the "Patients" problem was (the definition of the word they were to come up with). We discussed how there should only be one incision per word part and that they would need to know which parts they were taking out before cutting. We definitely did not want to cut out "organs" unnecessarily. 

                                                       (Surgeon)

         Another job role was the "Stitcher." This person had to neatly "stitch" the word parts together onto the patient and report the word to the "Head Supervisor." 

                                                        (Stitcher)

         The "Head Supervisor" was responsible for recording the "remedies" onto a log found in the clip board, as well as, make sure that everyone was on task and report back to me. 

                                                (Head Supervisor)

      Students were engaged in collaborate conversations and really had to analyze word parts to come up with the word being defined on the patient. 

video
    
       As you can see, students were really engaged and working together as a group. 


        In the middle of the lesson, a "Code Blue" was announced and students had two minutes to save a "dying patient" by answering prefix, suffix and root word questions found on the patient. This was one of the students favorite parts as they hoped another "Code Blue" would be announced later in the activity

video


      At the end of the activity, we met as a group as I displayed the patients on the projection board. We recapped our surgery sessions, the remedies for each patient, and how they came up with each remedy. 


     If you would like a copy of my Roots resource, you can find it at my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking HERE.

     All in all, classroom transformations have been a success in my classroom and have made learning, assessing, and enriching so much more engaging. Have you tried classroom transformations in your classroom? I would LOVE to hear about them. Feel free to let me know what you've done in the comment boxes below, or leave a link to a blog post you have written about a classroom transformation you created in your class. 





Happy teaching! 


Parent Communication Binder - Keeping It All Together



As we all know, communication with parents is an extremely important part of our job. Staying in touch with parents about their child's progress is crucial. How do parents and teachers communicate now-a-days? Well, there are phone calls, emails, conferences, after school encounters, and the list goes on. 

Not only is it beneficial to have this communication with parents, but at most schools, and district levels, it is required. As a matter of fact, in the district I work at, teachers must present their parent communication records as part of their end of the year evaluation to their administrators. 

As I'm sure quite a few of you have encountered, sometimes there is a lapse in memory on our part, or the parents part, as to the details that were discussed during one of these encounters. Because of this, I find it extremely important to keep good records of my contact with parents. 

For these reasons, it became important for me to have a well organized  Parent Communication Binder. After several attempts, I finally found a method that works extremely well for me, and I've been using it for the last few years. As a matter of fact, quite a few teachers who have walked into my classroom in the past, and have seen my (3 inch) Parent Communication have asked me about it and have chosen to do the same in their classroom. Therefore, I thought I'd share it with you, my fellow online co-teachers. 


My binder has three parts for each child. The first sheet is titled "Getting to Know You," the second sheet is titled "Parent Contact Log" and the third is just a clear page protector. I will explain each section in detail below.


The first section is titled "Getting to Know You." The very first day of school, I distribute this page to each students and ask them to have their parents fill it out. It asks for the child's name, school identification number, birth date, allergies, parents' phone numbers, parents' emails and any information they think is important for the teacher to know. This last section is where parents can write children's interests, medical issues, fears, or any information they think the teacher will need to know. Once I receive the page back from the student, I place it in a page protector in the binder.



Right behind this page, I place a three hole punched Parent Contact Log. This page does not go in a page protector because I need to be able to access it quickly to write on it after communicating with a parent. This page has a space to write the student's name and identification number. Below it, there are five sections provided to document up to five parent communications for this student. Each of these sections is further broken down. I have a section in which I write the date and time of the contact, a section where I quickly circle if this communication was "In Person," on the "Phone," via "Email" or "Other," and the last section where I also quickly circle if this communication was about "Behavior," "Academics," or "Other." On the large space below that, I write a detailed description of what the conversation was about. I like to be detailed because with over 45 students, I may tend to forget the exact details discussed. 


Finally, behind that page, I include a clear page protector where I can place any documents used to communicate with parents, such as notes, emails, sign and correct tests, unsatisfactory notices, tardy slips, etc. Having a clear page protector saves me from having to hole punch the pages and place them in the binder, and we all know how precious our time is in the classroom. To further facilitate the process, I make sure that the students' pages are placed in alphabetical order, so I can get to them quickly.

Now, I have had a few teachers say they don't have time to place the "notes" in the binder, so they have some sort of bin or drawer where they keep their notes. I have to admit, I do not place the notes in the binder right away. Many times the students bring me the notes as I am getting ready to teach a lesson, or making my way in or out of the classroom. Therefore, I place the notes in a bin behind my desk. Once a week during my planning time, or when students are testing on Friday, I take a moment and file them in the binder. I have found this routine to work well for me and it keeps me organized. 

If you are interested in these forms, you can find them for FREE by clicking HERE. My new binder covers which come in 'print and go,' plus 'editable' version, can be found HERE.

If you've struggled keeping you parent communication notes organized, I hope this gives you some ideas. If you have another successful method, please feel free to share in the comment section below. I'd love to read what works for you (and I'm sure other readers will as well). 




Subject/Predicate Ninjas? Yes Please!




Let's face it! Grammar is usually not students' favorite subject, however, it is so important that students learn how to properly write sentences, paragraphs, and essays. For this reason, teaching students to identify a subject and predicate of a sentence is very crucial. Students must be able to identify whether or not they are writing a complete thought and sentence. After teaching this concept to fifth graders for a few years, I decided this year to spice it up a bit. The response was AH-mazing! Students and parents alike had such wonderful and positive things to say after this unit was over. Some of the comments were:

"Thank you for all you do for us. I really appreciate it." -Student

"That was so much fun!" -Student

"Thank you for the ninja lesson you did with my son. These types of lessons are exactly what my son needs to be motivated at school." -Parent

After these responses, I KNEW I had to share this lesson with my followers.  

I started off by having the students work on a flap book in their interactive notebooks writing the definition and examples of a complete subject, complete predicate, simple subject, and simple predicate. 

After discussing the examples, I gave students some sentences. This is where our ninja skills came in handy. I explained that we would be "ninja chopping" the sentences between the complete subject and complete predicate. Students got in "Ready Ninja Stances."

We then read the sentence and asked, "Who is the sentence about?" We then "ninja chopped" the sentence. 



We labeled the "Who" of the sentence as the complete subject. Next, we asked "What about the subject?" That left us with the rest of the sentence which we labeled complete predicate. They absolutely LOVED "ninja chopping training." We then discussed and labeled the noun in the complete subject the "simple subject," and the verb in the complete predicate the "simple predicate."

Next, working with our task cards, we had to identify what the underlined part of the sentence was. We used our ninja skills to first divide the sentence, then figure out which part of the sentence was underlined, the complete subject, complete predicate, simple subject or simple predicate. 


You can watch a short video of this below. (Warning: This is the first video I tape with the intention on posting it. Therefore, I may need a little more practice. Also, the video has been blurred on purpose to hide the identity of our secret ninjas.) 

video

After a couple of days of training, ninjas were given their final assessment. Ninjas were allowed to sit wherever they wanted to take their assessment, but needed to be spread out. Some ninjas enjoyed taking their test on the floor on comfy pillows.



Finally, everyone's favorite part. Students' tests were graded on the spot, and those students who received a 100% received their black belts during our ceremony. Ninja music was playing on the Smartboard, a scenic background of a village was frozen on the board, and students were called up one by one to receive their black belts. 

Students were so excited to wear the black belts around school, and the best part was when others inquired about their black belts. It felt GREAT to hear them share their understanding of the lesson with others. 


*The black belts were black grosgrain ribbons bought on sale at Hobby Lobby. A "thrifty" prop that did the job!

If you are interested in the resource I used with the students, you can find it HERE, or by clicking on the picture below. 


The resource will be on sale at 50% for 48 hours. If you incorporate this activity in your classroom, I would LOVE it if you left me feedback to let me know how it went with your students. Happy teaching!