Show and Tell: What's New?

Now that the first quarter is over (!), I am finally "in the groove" with my 6th graders and am excited to join Stephanie for this swell linky to share some new things in/about my classroom!

One new thing I have been trying is Whole Brain Teaching.  Now I am no expert and am not implementing it to the "T", but I am using the class attention signals and the hand signals for various concepts which have been working wonders all by themselves!
The class attention signals work by saying "Class" to which the students respond "Yes".  You can vary it by saying "Super Class" to which the students respond "Super Yes".  I may have to repeat some sort of "Class" 2 or 3 times and then I say "Hands and Eyes" to which the students fold their hands and look at me.  This has been amazing!!
Then, I began to look at other signals like the folded hands to indicate compare and the bumping fists together to indicate contrast.  As we really get the hang of it, signals could replace words which amps up the attention factor tremendously.
I learned A LOT, just by watching this video:

Another part of the Whole Brain Teaching is "The Super Improver Wall".  This is where kids can visually track progress and move up in the ranks as they progress through the year.  My students are really enjoying it and coming up with privileges for each rank.

My Super Improver Wall is one of the awesome new things I am trying this year to put the emphasis on progress, not perfection!

Each student has to earn 10 improvements before they can move up a level.  They all want to be living legends!  :)

In my county, we must use the Springboard textbook.  I like the book overall, but it doesn't leave much room for fun.  So I have to keep the fun short and connected.  One way I have decided to do this is with picture books on video!

I plan to use this spooky story as a lead in to talk about theme in our text.  :)

Last, but not least, I am going to be starting a new blog series about engagement.  Now that the "honeymoon" is over, it's time to reach into the 'ol bag of tricks to ensure my students are with me!  Each Monday, beginning October 24th, I'll be sharing some of my best "tricks".  :)  I hope you'll join me!

Engagement in the Classroom Blog Series begins October 24th!

Thanks for stopping by!

Top 3 pins for Middle School Mania

This month's pins are brought to you by what I call "Middle School Mania".  That's the time when the honeymoon is over and students start to tune you out.  So this is when I have to reach into my bag of tricks and pull out a rabbit or three...

First up is this powerful article/podcast from Angela Watson.  I can tell you that I listened to this on my way to work on a recent Monday morning feeling concerned about the very problem she addressed.  After I listened, I truly felt inspired and ready to go!  It really is a "must read/listen" for anyone facing the problem of students refusing to work.


Next up is a concept I bet you didn't think would work in middle school:  Whole Brain Teaching!

I have 2 "regular" 6th grade ELA classes, 1 ESOL (ELL) 6th grade class and 3 "advanced" 6th grade ELA classes.  I just started using the strategies, but so far, ALL of my classes are digging it!  The bonus:  they are truly engaged, having fun and REMEMBERING key ideas!


Last but not least, here a few gems for engagement that are pretty easy to implement - like "voting cards" that ensure all kids are participating.


I also have a Pinterest board where I collect pins like these that you might want to check out:

Thanks for stopping by!

Top 3 Pins for Classroom Engagement

I am falling down happy to join up for this month's edition of the Pick # hosted by Pawsitively Teaching, Just Reed, and Inspired Owl's Corner!

I am back to school already and so my focus is "hooking" my students to keep them wanting to come back tomorrow!  In other words, I am all about engagement!

This pin leads to a post that is chock-a-block full of great ideas to make word walls come alive!  I especially liked the ideas of adding visuals along with definitions to the words on the wall and creating word art.  I am definitely going to be trying those right away!

This pin leads to a post about getting students excited to read new books by doing a "tasting".  It's all very well explained and looks like tons of fun!  I'll bet this event would be one that students would talk about all year!


Last, but not least, I am going to be trying the Super Improvers League.  It's a whole brain teaching concept where you track progress on a goal and students move up the ranks as a result.  It's very motivating for the students to have a goal to work towards and actually track visually.  Of course, there are also various privileges awarded for moving up the ranks, but that's part of celebrating success, right?

Thanks for stopping by!

How I Create A Positive Classroom Culture

I create a positive classroom culture by building relationships.

Have you ever seen/heard this TED Talk before?

In this very powerful message, Ms. Pierson says (in part) "Every child deserves a champion.  An adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connections and insists they become the best they can be."

To me, this is the epitome of teaching.  Yes, there are standards to teach and tests to take, but without the relationships in a positive classroom culture, the standards and tests just won't matter to the students.  This is because as Ms. Pierson also says in the video above, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like".  Now that doesn't mean to be the students' best buddy or to let them rule the roost.  That means "seeking to understand before being understood".

I do this in several ways:

I try to learn everyone's name (all 125 of them!) by the end of the first week.  This communicates interest in knowing my students and helps us make that first connection.  Then I use their names to greet them as they enter the classroom.  They love that I know their names!

I incorporate many ways for students to share about themselves by making a classroom quilt and then sharing information in a discussion circle.  I make a square and share too!

Making a classroom quilt:  All students contribute a square to show the power of bringing all the class's talents and skills!

I use the picture book The Patchwork Quilt  by Valerie Flournoy to explain the concept of the quilt in this way:  Separately all the fabric pieces are lovely, but together they make something much bigger, stronger and more beautiful.  Likewise, when we all bring all of our likes, dislikes, strengths, skills and talents together, we can make one bigger, stronger and more beautiful community of learners.

3.  Our rules aren't called rules - they're agreements.  We all brainstorm what we need to be successful and then we modify the ideas until we all are in agreement.  Then, I summarized our thoughts into Prompt, Prepared, Responsible and Respectful.

What if your classroom rules were agreements on what the class needs to be successful instead of rules?My classroom "rules" are agreements instead.  It's a great way to build positive classroom culture!     

I have several weeks of these kinds of activities all planned out and ready to go!   Just click here to check out these positive classroom culture helpers!

Now this is a good start, but honestly building a positive classroom culture is an ongoing task.  It's about really knowing your students and staying tuned in.  It's about giving the benefit of the doubt, having fun with the students, being fair, having boundaries and being human.

Like Ms. Pierson said, it's all about leaving a legacy of relationships.

An InLinkz Link-up

Secondary Smorgasbord is hosted by The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures!

Thanks for stopping by!

Summer Show and Tell

I'm very happy to link up with Forever in 5th grade to show and tell about one big thing I was a part of this summer - hosting a Welcome Social that was held at the TpT conference in Orlando this past July!

The Florida bloggers welcomed over 600 teacher-authors to Florida to kick off the 2016 TpT Conference with swag bags, prizes a photo booth and more! 

We want to thank everyone for coming out and joining us as well as thanking our generous sponsors and donors!!

Mary, from Full of Smiles Photography, did a fantastic job of capturing the event!

First, we must thank Adam, Amy, and Paul for coming to our event!! Don't they look great?!

A huge thank you goes out to Sarah from Educlips for making this amazing clip art!

Seriously though, a big "Thank You" goes to Team TpT for coming out to the event!! It was amazing to have them come and join us in welcoming everyone to Florida!

Another BIG thanks to Tabitha Carro from Smartphone Marketing for all her support and fun giveaways throughout the event!

Another huge thanks goes out to A+ Images for sponsoring our event and giving away a class set of shirts!

We hope everyone enjoyed all the great stuff they found in their swag bags! These were packed with goodies from the Florida bloggers and specific donors!

Thank you to the amazing sponsors above as well as these great sponsors and donors for helping to make our giveaways and prizes the best!
A Modern Teacher
Safari, Ltd
Seat Sacks
Simple Soap
The Fit Teacher
Denise Boehm: Sunny Days in Second Grade
Amy Labrasciano
Cara Gingras: Kindergarten Boom Boom
Kimberly Solis: Elementary Antics
Your Thrifty Co-Teacher
Ta-Doodles Illustrations
Alexis Sanchez: Laugh Eat Learn Designs
Meg Anderson: The Teaching Studio
Teaching in the Tongass
Lyndsey Zurawski: Speech to the Core
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas
Lovely Leaders
Kristin Bowers - Kiwi Speech
Meg's Crayons
Learning Harbor
Hallie Sherman - Teacher Blogging School

It was terrific being able to host this social with all the Florida bloggers and we hope y'all come back real soon!  :)

Thanks for stopping by!