3 Winter Teacher Problems And How To Solve Them

We are DEFINITELY exhausted by this time of year, and the risk of burn-out is high. These 3 tips should make our lives a little bit easier.

Beast report cards, parent gifts, and taking care of YOURSELF!

1. Your report cards make you want to pull your hair out.

GIRL. (or GENTLEMAN.) We've all been there. They don't need to make you pull your hair out. Believe it or not, I got all of mine done today in about 4 hours. (Don't worry, I wanted to pull my hair out before they were done.) They used to take me days and days of tireless work. 

Now I've got systems in place that let me be efficient.  This is about working SMARTER and not HARDER. For example, I create a fill-in-the-blank template so all I have to do is copy and paste skills in that my students are working on. Report cards are about communicating progress, not writing masterpieces!

Click here or on the picture below to see my tips for completing report cards in a very reasonable amount of time.



2. Creating a gift for parents makes you want to gouge your eyeballs out.

I love my students. I love their parents. I don't love the stress of making gifts. My favorite gift is a shrinky dink gift that even involves writing poetry. So, it's valuable and it's fun, but it's also a REALLY unique gift. Check it out along with 2 other easy gift ideas by clicking the adorable picture below or clicking right here.



3. You're exhausted and you just want to cry, take a nap, and then cry some more.

I wish I couldn't relate, but I can. This is a really tough time of year, so we need to be fiercely protective of our well-being. Nobody is going to take care of you for you, so the responsibility to carve out time for self care belongs to you. You can't pour from an empty cup; you can't be the best teacher you can possibly be when your energy has just about all but fizzled out.

Check out some tips I shared to help you get back on track by clicking on that nice, relaxed looking teacher by the water below or by clicking here. This is one of my most Pinned posts, so even if you think you know it by skimming the bold words, I think this one is the most valuable to stop and read.



What are your tips for surviving this time of year? Comment below so we can all benefit from them! 

4 Amazing Teaching Books That You Need To Read

4 Amazing Teaching Books That You Need To Read recommended by A Word On Third


These are books that I think you absolutely, positively HAVE. TO. READ. They have impacted my teaching career really positively, and I'm thinking they will help you too. The best thing is that you don't have to wait for your next break or long weekend (or... let's be real... SUMMER) to read them. They are quick, easy reads.


1. The Happy Teacher Habits

Ok, I'm not done with this one yet, but it's so great! In short, there are eleven "happy teacher" habits that will make your life easier. It's simple and practical. So far, my favorite chapters are the ones about envisioning and bridging. I have noticed both making my day better. This book also talks about the 80/20 rule, which I am a firm believer in. Get it by clicking on the picture below.



2. 80 Morning Meeting Ideas


This isn't a conventional read. You can flip through and pick and choose new Morning Meeting greetings, shares, activities, and message ideas when things feel stale. The book organizes all Morning Meeting ideas by skills covered and more. There's even ideas about how to introduce each new activity/greeting/etc.. I've only read the grades 3-6 version of this book, but there's a K-2 version too! I linked both below. Definitely the perfect companion book for the Morning Meeting junkie!

           



3. Closing Circles


This book is similar to the 80 Morning Meeting Ideas book because you can flip through for ideas as you need them. The little introduction at the beginning helped me to reshape the way my days end. We start with a meaningful Morning Meeting, why would we end in a chaotic or abrupt way? Now I end my days intentionally, as a whole class, and I think it's important. My closing circles are far from perfect, and if I'm honest, they are very quick at times, but they make a difference to my classroom community. 



4. The Writing Strategies Book


Another fabulous book you can skim or actually read through more thoroughly. This has great, practical ideas for conferring with struggling writers. She even has little anchor charts you can copy for your kids. I usually make them a little bigger on the copier, and BOOM! Strategy group all done! I know she has a reading book too, and I'm dying to snag it.



Have you read any of these? If so, what do you think? What are some other books you love? Comment below!




1 Sure Way To Get Your Students Engaged In Writing

1 Sure Way To Get Your Students Engaged In Writing: writing classroom news with A Word On Third


Even my most reluctant writers get excited when we write the class news report. Last April I came up with the idea to film a weekly class news segment.

It became so successful in my classroom, making such an impact on my writers, that I decided to run with the idea.

One of the best parts of the class news report is that it not only keeps my students excited about writing, but it also informs the students' families about what we do in class. Double win!

Here's how it works in my classroom from start to finish in under 40 minutes:

  1. Pick 5 students to write the news. Each student picks one subject area to cover in the news report. Students have about 25 minutes to write their pieces.
  2. Spend about 10 minutes reading over the news. Focus on making sure the news report has a smooth flow, full of transitions from news anchor to news anchor.
  3. Have students practice reading their news segment for fluency for another minute or two.
  4. Film the news, all in one take. I'm serious--one take! MAYBE TWO if you want to get fancy, but one is really all you need.
I edit the news segments in iMovie, but this year I'm hoping to have my students start editing too. You might edit yours, but you don't have to.

You can even add in some extra pizazz by having students interview others, write special interest reports, or create book commercials. How cute would it be to break from your news report for a message from "sponsors?" We've even started adding in special music breaks once in a while. I record my students during the last minute of music classes sometimes.

You can do this yourself too, with simple writing paper and any recording device. That's literally all you need. You really don't have to edit it if that intimidates you; after all, it's a class news report, not a real TV program! You can film during a writing period with a small group, or you might decide to film on Thursdays at lunch time like I do. Luckily for me, my schedule allows me to switch my lunch and prep around on the days I record the news. Just share your finished piece on Seesaw or email it as a google file to families.

If you want some resources to help you get started, I am selling my student-run classroom news resource on Teachers Pay Teachers for only $2.50. 



Click here or on the above picture to check it out! You'll get:
  • teacher tips for writing, filming, and editing the news,
  • a sample news introduction for your students to read at the beginning of each report,
  • prompts to develop on-screen communication between student news anchors,
  • a sample student script to assist students in writing their own,
  • a student script direction sheet and template,
  • a book commercial template,
  • a special interest news report template,
  • and an interview template.
If you try this out, please comment below and let me know what cool ideas you come up with for making your news report awesome!

This Is What Happens When Teachers Don't Fight Holidays...

A Word On Third will show you how to deal with holiday stress in the classroom with ease.


You've fallen into the swing of the year, and now Halloween is threatening to make you crazy. We've all been there.


I'm sure you've heard the expression, "If you can't beat them, join them."


I have found that this mentality can take you SO far during Halloween!


Click on the picture to the left or on this link to be taken to a post I wrote last year about how to use the holidays to your advantage. I will write the spark notes below, but if you'd like more details, I recommend visiting that link.


In the days leading up to Halloween this year, make sure to:

  1. Revisit routines through interactive modeling.
  2. Have kids move throughout the day as often as possible. Brain breaks are your friend.
  3. Use more reinforcing language than you thought humanly possible.
  4. Give distractions full attention. Leading up to holidays, there are some things that beg for students' attention (cool costumes, that spooky Halloween rumor going around, etc.). Spend 20 seconds devoting ALL of your attention, and then immediately move on. You'll spend that amount of time begging for your kids to listen anyway, and now kids won't be thinking about it quietly while you teach on! 

I also try to find as many holiday-themed lesson activities that fit with my objectives. If you can find them, you're going to have an engaged class.


For writing, I love to use The Mysteries of Harris Burdick! Chris Van Allsburg put together 14 really thought-provoking (and eerie) black and white drawings for this book. The myth he created is that an unknown author (Harris Burdick) brought them to a publisher to see if they had interest in publishing his work, but never came back to follow up despite strong interest from the publisher. Each drawing is accompanied by a title and caption. Together with the pictures, they entice readers to make up their own stories to go along with the pictures. The pictures are all unrelated, so there are lots of options for writers. 

I typically spend a day teaching a planning strategy, and the next day I teach a mini-lesson on a revising strategy. Then we will read our pieces to our partners. It only takes two days, so it's not disruptive, but it's still fun and valuable for the kids.




Another favorite activity of mine is this differentiated Halloween math lab I created. Your class will receive a strange, mysterious letter with a request for help in planning a Halloween party from some spooky neighbors (named Teri Bull and Gob Lin). The lesson plans are all included, and there's no prep involved other than copying. There are 3 different price lists, which could make this very challenging for 1st graders (if you're using the easiest price list) or quite challenging for 4th graders (if you're using the most difficult price list).






This year I changed it up--I taught into checking for reasonable estimates and using calculators to check work. We also talked about what organizing and showing our work should look like, which you can see a bit of above. This took me about 4 days. If you want to use this for first graders, I definitely recommend letting them use calculators the whole time. For fourth graders, maybe they will only check their work with calculators. The choice is yours!

Here's the spooky envelope this lab comes in every year...


Of course, I'll make sure the kids get some spooky Thank You notes for helping Teri and Gob. And because I love you guys and know how tired you probably are at this time of the year, I decided to throw a sale so you can buy this and everything else in my store at 15% off! Just make sure to visit my store here. You can also click the sale graphic below to check out my Halloween resource!


My Favorite Quick Greeting For Hectic Mornings

My Favorite Quick Greeting For Hectic Mornings by A Word On Third


Here's a Morning Meeting greeting I love to use when I'm having trouble fitting it all in! I love this greeting not only because it's quick and easy, but also because it gets the kids up and moving. It's called a mingle greeting, and it's exactly what it sounds like! Your students will mingle and greet others in a designated period of time.

How to introduce a Mingle Greeting

1. Tell your students they will be walking around the room and greeting their classmates for a designated period of time. I suggest starting with 1 and a half minutes and lowering the time as needed as your class gets used to this greeting.
2. Use reminding language to help your students remember what a thoughtful greeting looks like. "Who remembers what we do with our eyes during a greeting?"

3. Ask students what they might do if the person they want to greet is greeting someone else.  Wait or find someone else to greet.

That's literally all you have to do. I ask my kids for a reasonable estimate of people they think they can greet within the amount of time we have. In one minute, I'm hoping that they can greet somewhere between 5-7ish people.


Try some variations:

  • Use different languages.
  • Use different handshakes.
  • Try a mingle greeting as a brain break instead of a greeting. (For example, students might mingle and share a science fact they learned during a unit of study as a warm-up.)
  • Try a mingle greeting for a closing circle. Students can say "See you tomorrow," or say "Goodbye" in another language.
That's all you have to do!! Now go try a mingle greeting tomorrow morning if you're pressed for time or you want your kids to move! 

3 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Classroom Community

3 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Classroom Community by A Word On Third


It's another Happy Teacher Tip Tuesday! Link up (even if it's not Tuesday) by writing your blog post and adding it below. Make sure to visit this page for the rules of the linkup. 


This week's tips are wellness tips that have to do with our emotional health and our students' emotional health! That means you get a double-dose of Teacher Happy today!


Building your community in your classroom does so many things for us. It reduces behavior problems and student stress. It makes the students happier and more willing to take academic (or social) risks. And, my personal favorite... is that it's just darn FUN! I love this part of teaching, and you probably do too. So check out these posts with quick and easy ways to build your community!

1. Play Rare Bird.

The rare bird activity is super fun. It helps your students to find out how they are different and unique. You might also find that your students discover some similarities too! 

You can read more about this community-building activity by clicking on the picture to the left or clicking here.




2. Get rid of fake apologies.

This one really speaks to me. Have you ever heard someone say, "Sorry," with an eye-roll and sarcastic tone? Doesn't that drive you crazy??

Have you ever been forced to make an apology, which in turn makes you want to gouge your eyeballs out, scream, stamp, and give a sarcastic sorry!? Realistically, we've probably been in both positions!

This is something you can teach your students ahead of time that will help out when conflicts arise. It prevents a lot of hurt feelings when used appropriately. Read the details by clicking on the picture to the left or by clicking here.


3. Share each day.

When students regularly have a forum for sharing, their sense of belonging and significance is greatly strengthened. Those two basic needs are a MUST in order for learning to take place. Not only will your students feel heard, but you'll get a chance to get to know your students better too! Whether you are sharing at Morning Meeting, snack time, or at the end of the day during closing circle, make sure to fit it in every day. Partner sharing works well for those days when you feel like you don't have time to have too many kids share with the whole class.

This strategy can help your kids to say more about the topic they are sharing while simultaneously building that child's understanding of main ideas and supporting details. I use this all of the time and love it! If you don't feel like using math tools, substitute them for fingers/palms the way you might teach oral rehearsing during Writer's Workshop. Click on the picture or click here to read more.



What are the little ways you like to build community in your classroom? Make sure to link up (or comment below if you don't have a blog) and spread the happy!



Make Sure You Don't Miss My 2017 Classroom Reveal

I'm so beyond thrilled to share my new classroom with you guys! I put so much work into re-working this space over the summer. After I started the school year, we lived in our space for a few days, and then we made tweaks to the layout as a class. I am pretty sure this is how our room will be for the rest of the year, at least for the most part!

Make Sure You Don't Miss My 2017 Classroom Reveal


I was super, extra lucky this year because Oriental Trading Company reached out to share some of their amazing classroom products with me for review in exchange for my honest opinion. LET ME TELL YOU... I already knew I loved Oriental Trading, but I REALLY love a few of the things they shared with our class this year. I feel like there are a few things that really made the room pull together. I'll show you everything!


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


Above is the view from one of the corners of my room. You can see a good shot of most tables here. A few people asked me where I got the rug on Instagram. It came from Walmart! I ordered it online and looked at rugs that were on clearance. So far, I'm really pleased with it.


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


Above you'll see some of my yoga balls, some math manipulatives, our word wall, our class hermit crabs, and our mailboxes. The math manipulative containers used to come in some kind of ugly pastel colors, so I spray painted them to fit with the room. I have some green, teal, and gray containers now. I much prefer those to the awkward pink, purple, yellow and green containers they used to be! I just used Rustoleum. If you have plastic containers you hate... don't buy new ones! Just get some spray paint!!! It's cheap and easy.


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


Oriental Trading Company totally saved my mailboxes with some plain, black duct tape and some awesome washi tape. I used some contact paper on the sides of my mailboxes, covered up the sides with the black duct tape, and covered the edges of the mailboxes with washi tape. Instead of attaching labels with names to the plastic things that I put the washi tape on, I attached them to binder clips. That will make next year so much easier! I cannot tell you how darn ugly this mailbox system was, but it was so sturdy! I couldn't throw it out. This turned out better than I could have imagined. Never underestimate what a little tape or contact paper can do! The contact paper I got was from Amazon. There's tons of it on there!


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


Move a little to the left, and you'll see the rest of the word wall. I have another yoga ball table (those two gray ones were $20 on Amazon!) You can find cheaper yoga balls sometimes, but I find these to be a sturdy brand. I don't need to spend $10 on a yoga ball just to replace them in a month. My Gaiam yoga balls lasted all year last year and they are still going strong. The cheaper ones I got from Walmart popped within 1 to 2 months. 

I also have an awesome drawer system, and the top of it serves as a work surface. That drawer system came from the Jane app, which is also a website. It's super sturdy and I could not love it more. It was $40 if I remember correctly... not too shabby for such high quality drawers! Every other comparable item I saw was at least twice the price.


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


And here's a shot of my classroom library! One of the library boxes is missing, but I am really proud of how many books are available to my students. I (Well, it's not missing. It's just sitting in my teaching area because I'll be using it for a lesson tomorrow morning.) I have about 60 boxes of books for the students to pick from. Half are leveled, and half are sorted by genre or topic. I just don't think one shelf of books cuts it. However, it takes a LONG time to gather that many books. I cannot recommend Scholastic Reading Club more; it will get you TONS of free books... for very little effort. Make sure to check out this post I wrote describing how I use them! 

Students love sitting in the teepee, but I have a rule that it can only fit 1-2 students at a time. Inside of the teepee, I keep a lap desk students can sit on (one side is a cushion) or write on. I've also got tons of clipboards the students can use whenever they want. The wooden shelf on top of the book case is our writing station. It's filled with editing checklists, writing paper, etc. Finally, the black chair is our "chill chair," which students use for taking a break.


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


On the other side of the library, I have this little bench. I covered up a teacher area with that curtain. There are a few book boxes in there that I use for mentor texts, so I found it was important to cover them up. I didn't want students getting confused when book shopping! I store a bunch of my files in the corner because I don't have a desk. It's a bit over-flowing right now... but in a few weeks hopefully I will get some of that put away!! (YEAH RIGHT! HA!)


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


Here's another view of that little corner. I put my old teacher's desk on bed risers for a cheap standing table. The kids love using it! I also put two stools underneath incase they decide to sit. The two small rocking chairs came from Home Goods a few years back, and the big rocking chair was my grandpa's. One day I'll get around to painting it.


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


I used more of Oriental Trading Company's washi tape on my board to separate things. I love their lime green tape! You can also see my butterfly set up on the table by the smartboard. I put them in a tomato planter covered with tulle. Read more about how to raise Monarchs here. Next to that is my cart from Michael's. I love it! The caddies in my room also come from Michael's. They might still be there if you go soon! I also saw some nice lap desks made of plastic when I went, but I didn't grab any.


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


Here's another shot of a table I grabbed for $10 at a yard sale this summer. I painted it with more Rustoleum. Spray paint makes lazy people very happy!! 


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


This spot in my classroom totally surprised me. This is our closet, where we hang backpacks. I thought I'd put our pillows in buckets under here and that the top would just keep backpacks from falling in. Even though I have a huge class and not nearly as many hooks as I'd like, the kids keep the closet really neat this year. This is actually a space the kids like to use! They turn the tubs over and put one pillow on top. Again, the pillows in the pink bin came from Oriental Trading Company. I love that the pillow cases come off. They are machine washable. Let's be real... these look great now, but they won't in a few months. SO GLAD I can wash them so they will continue to look nice!


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


This is probably my favorite decorative touch in the classroom. The string lights on the ceiling make the room feel SO cozy and homey. In the morning, I often leave the fluorescent lights off and only keep my string lights, salt lamp, and floor lamp on while playing calming music or nature sounds. It makes for a peaceful morning of unpacking before Morning Meeting starts! I got these from Oriental Trading Company also. I love that the bulbs are PLASTIC. I got some bulbs for my back deck once from Target, and WOW did those things break left and right. NEVER AGAIN. I'm not bitter....

Anyway, these lights are LED, and they made me VERY happy while I was setting them up. You can buy them here. If you've broken a bunch of bulbs like me, you can relate to this!


A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal


FINALLY... big news! I got two new class pets! Our class now has "skinny pigs," which are hairless guinea pigs. They are sisters, and they are about 7 months old. This is their epic cage set-up by the sink. I am turning my classroom into a zoo. Guinea pigs, hermit crabs, and caterpillars... and in the spring we'll have chicks! Here's a better picture of Nibble and Nugget, who come home with me on weekends and days off...



Anyway, that's my room! If you have questions about anything you see, comment below and I'll make sure to get back to you!