Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How To Drastically Reduce Your Planning Time


Teachers: use your prep periods more effectively with this super simple and effective tip by A Word On Third!



It's our second Happy Teacher Tip Tuesday! To link up, check out this link for details, write your genius, happiness-inducing, tip-filled post, and link up below!


This classroom tip has drastically reduced the amount of work I do during my free-time. I still put in some work each day after school, but for the most part, I have my weekends 100% to myself, I get home at a reasonable hour (think 4:30-5:30 instead of 7), and I am five times more productive. This makes me a MUCH better teacher since I'm not burnt out anymore. An old colleague of mine taught me this strategy, and I have never looked back.


Every year before school starts, I plan out my prep periods when I get my class schedule. I also post it somewhere in my room where I will see it when I'm working without kids in the room. Here's an example of my prep schedule from last year:


Basically, I make sure every 40 minute period goes to something that will help me for the following week. I also leave my classroom so that it is 100% ready for the next day. If something happens and I come in late, I don't have to rush or feel flustered because my room is all set for the kids. I have prep periods devoted to planning and prepping each subject I teach, reviewing student work, etc. At the end of the day, I stay for at least one hour to finish anything I didn't get done that day. Usually I stay for two hours, but after that point, if I have more to do, I leave it for the next day. Some weeks I stay until 6 on a Friday, but some weeks I finish early and get to leave at 4 on a Friday!! WHOO HOO!

Think about it... have you ever attempted to clean your home, get distracted by something that belongs in another room, walk to the other room put it back, only to start cleaning something else in that second room? Next thing you know, you have 4 cleaning projects going at once, I find that that kind of unfocused effort in getting things done can easily happen during our prep periods and derail them if we aren't careful. If there's something I really want to get done that isn't on my planning schedule, I just write it down on a post-it for myself.

Do you guys do something similar? If not, I really recommend trying this. It's so simple, but so effective! I've gotten loads more free time with this. Any time you can make a system for yourself, you will save time. Of course, things will pop up, and you won't follow it perfectly all of the time. But even if you follow it half of the time, you'll have made a small investment for a huge pay-out.


Share your tips with everyone to add a little more happy into our days! Link up your blog post below by clicking "Add your link." I can't wait to read your posts!



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How To Be A Happier Teacher Immediately



It's our first Happy Teacher Tip Tuesday! To link up, check out this link for details, write your genius, happiness-inducing, tip-filled post, and link up below! I had to post about a wellness tip first, especially since it's summer.



This is our chance to make healthy habits stick by the time the start of school rolls around!


In one of my last posts, I wrote about the book Sleep Smarter, which was a game changer for me!! Now I wake up in the mornings ready to go, full of energy. That was monumental for me, because I've NEVER been a morning person. It's NOT about sleep quantity here--it's about sleep quality! And contrary to popular belief, you can't repay a sleep debt. When I got my sleep in check, I quickly started feeling like Super Teacher! Better sleep = better productivity. I get much more done each day, and I get it done well. Here are my 4 Happy Teacher Tips to make you sleep happy and teach happy!

1. Go screen-less! 
The blue light from our tvs, phones, iPads, etc. can trick our bodies into thinking it is daytime. We produce more of the cortisol hormone which isn't good for bedtime. Get off the screens 90 minutes before bed, and use blue-light blocking glasses when you can't. You can also download software to take the blue light out of your screens after a certain time like f.lux. I think this change made the biggest difference for me. My phone lives downstairs at bedtime now.

2. Get sunlight in the morning.
You can mix this with exercise by walking first thing, but even eating your breakfast in the sun is great. Even on a cloudy day, this will stimulate an increase in cortisol. You actually want that first thing in the morning! Cortisol isn't bad, but it IS bad at the WRONG TIME. So go walk your dogs before work. They'll thank you for it.

3. Make it dark.
Black-out curtains are fabulous, and really improve sleep quality. However, you want to limit the light from electronics in your bedroom too. Alarm clocks can make your environment very bright! Many alarm clocks also have screen dimmers--use them.

4. Be consistent with your schedule.
Having the same sleeping and waking times each day (even on weekends), will allow you to wake up ready to go every morning. No more groggy Mondays! Having a bedtime routine will help you with this. Even leaving work at the same time will too. If you HAVE TO leave by 5, are you really going to scroll through your Instagram feed for 20 minutes after your students leave, or are you going to make your copies?


If you're interested in learning more about sleep, I recommend starting with this article and snagging a copy of the book I mentioned above! I can't tell you how much happier I am each day.

Share your tips with everyone to add a little more happy in our days! Link up your blog post below by clicking "Add your link."


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Don't Miss This New Link-Up To Help You Get Happy!

A Word On Third's Happy Teacher Tip Tuesday Link Up


Starting on Tuesday, I'm hosting the Happy Teacher Tip Tuesday link up party so you can snag some awesome teacher tips from other happy teachers. We all know how hard it can be to survive the juggling act that is teaching, so my hope is that you can use these tips to become a happier teacher yourself!


If you're a non-blogging reader... 

Expect to read wellness tips, time-saving tips, sanity-saving tips, and organizational tips! Every other week, I'll share my favorite tip for you, and you can read other linked-up blog posts to read other teachers' tips too. From classroom furniture design to making the most of your prep time or what lunches can be easily packed, the one thing all of these tips will have in common is that they can make you happier.  If you don't blog, please feel free to participate by commenting your favorite tips at the bottom of my posts.


If you're a blogger...

All you need to do is write a short blog post with your teacher tip(s), include the above graphic linking back to the current H.T.T.T. post on my blog, and link up! Share your post so everyone can benefit from your awesome-sauce tip, and then read other tips to get some more happy in your life! It's definitely polite to comment on at least one other blogger's post, so I'm going to ask that you do that too.

I've added a new navigation tab on the top of my my blog called Happy Teacher Tip Tuesdays with all the graphics you'll need. Check it out!



I can't wait to learn all of your tips on Tuesdays! This Tuesday, my tip is going to be about improving your sleep. I'm so much happier because of it!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

4 Helpful Books You Need To Read This Summer

A Word On Third shares her 4 most recommended books to help you stay at the top of your teacher-game!


Summer is finally here, which means TEACHERS CAN READ AGAIN!! Last year I challenged teachers to a summer reading challenge, and my friends who participated enjoyed it. How can you not? You develop yourself personally or professionally (or you just flat out escape and let your imagination run wild).

I've found that the key to completing a summer reading challenge is:

  • Picking books you love. Duh.
  • Committing to a reasonable amount of reading per day. No more and no less. This will be different for everyone. Last year I read one chapter a day. This summer I'll probably do 2 or 3 because I'm reading more now.
  • Keeping your list short.
  • Changing up the genres. Maybe pick one health, one personal development, a few teacher books? It's important that you focus on all aspects of you as a person, not just your teacherness!


I've gathered a list of a few books that I think you should read. They will make you a happier person and a better teacher. Click the picture of each book to be taken to its Amazon page.




This book is AMAZING! I had no idea how terrible my sleep hygiene was before I started reading this book. I'm a much happier person now because of it. I love how easy to read Shawn Stevenson's writing style is; he tells you the science in an understandable way, then gives you PRACTICAL and EASY TO IMPLEMENT steps for your life that you can use immediately. Teachers--if we don't have more time to sleep, we had better sleep well!



 This is a really nice book for helping you reach goals. It talks about six key self-development practices: meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and writing. I really love doing my Miracle Mornings. They definitely keep my focused on what is important to me. The idea is that you get up and do those 6 things first thing in the morning. It might mean waking up earlier during the year, but I actually found it extremely pleasant. I am NOT a morning person either, so that's saying a lot. They even have a 6-minute version for those of us who just CAN'T wake up an extra 30-60 minutes earlier. This was a fast read for me.



I recommended this book last year, but I will continue to do so. I think this book transformed my teaching practices more than any other book I've read. It's a quick read again (WHO WANTS TO READ SOMETHING THAT SOUNDS LIKE A TEXT BOOK!?), and it's practical and easy-to-implement. (Noticing a pattern in my recommendations?) You'll learn tons of strategies to improve parent communication, which will allow you to know your students on a deeper level.



This book will teach you everything you need to know about Morning Meeting to start it in your classroom. I bet it's even better than the book I have too, because it's the third edition! I have the first... womp womp! You'll learn the components of a Morning Meeting, why each component is so important, and examples of each component. I especially love the little problem-solving parts at the end of each chapter that help you with any problems you might run into. This is my favorite part of the school day. Even though I've run Morning Meetings every single year I've been teaching, I'm always reading about how to vary them, make them better, etc.


So, those are the books I recommend you read this summer! I promise you won't be disappointed. I haven't decided everything I'm going to read yet, but here are two books I am definitely going to read this summer:

       

Let's hope they're good! They both come highly recommended to me. What are you reading? Comment below!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

4 Posts To Save Your Sanity At The End of the Year

4 Posts To Save Your Sanity At The End of the Year


Whether you finish the school year in May or June, right now it's the final stretch. Our kids are getting antsy... WE are getting antsy. It's a tough time of year. Use these posts to save yourself some sanity and time.

1. My 3 Best Secrets For Finishing Report Cards Quickly


BEAST those report cards, Ladies & Gents. You really don't need to spend more than a few hours on them if you are consistently assessing and you know your students. Mine are ALWAYS done in one night. If you know your students, I promise yours will be too.


2. How To Introduce Supplies and Routines Easily And Effectively



This isn't just for the beginning of the year: use it when you return from having a substitute, when you have a day off, or when you notice your kids are antsy. HMMM... SOUND FAMILIAR AT THIS TIME OF YEAR!? This shouldn't take more than a few minutes (five at the most), but it can drastically curb problematic behaviors because you're setting kids up for success.


3. Teachers: Are You Exploiting This Powerful Language Skill?




This will help your students stay motivated! Frankly, it also keeps things positive for YOU when you feel like your head is going to explode. Reinforcing language = gift from the teacher universe.


4. How To Take Care Of Yourself When You're Teacher-Tired




So many people worry about burn-out at the beginning of the year. I usually use these tips in August/September when school starts up, but you'd better believe I'm thinking about this stuff when May/June hits too! If I don't, I walk around looking like I put my hand in an electrical socket!! And I have gigantic bags under my eyes. And I usually get really crabby.

Because I love you, if you scroll to the bottom of the last linked post, you'll see a little sequel to the Teacher-Tired post. These two posts are some of my most popular posts, and it's because we NEED to remember to take care of ourselves! We can't teach well if we aren't well ourselves. Don't miss out on the goodies. There's lots of free self-care stuff on there for you.




So how are you hanging onto your sanity? What are your tips to... well... not look like you put your hand in an electrical socket once the school count-down is under way!? Ha! Comment below!!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Teachers: Are You Exploiting This Powerful Language Skill?

Teachers: Are You Exploiting This Powerful Language Skill? : A Word on Third teaches you how to use Reinforcing Language


There's a powerful tool that builds dynamic learners that we can use about 80 or 90% of our day when we are not directly teaching our mini-lessons, and it's called reinforcing language. This tool has the power to build our community, build our students' confidence and willingness to take risks, and build their knowledge base too. When teachers don't use it, it's usually only because they don't know how to. After all, we probably weren't taught with a ton of the most effective reinforcing language, and there are rarely classroom management classes in our college course catalogue.

All effective language shares these qualities:

  • It's clear and brief. Nobody wants to hear you ramble on forever! Kids lose interest.
  • It's genuine. We know it when you spit out a compliment that you don't mean.
  • Avoids judgement of the child. If a child makes a mistake, make your comment about the behavior or choice, not the child as a person. "You were so mean," is not the same as, "When you took his crayon, it hurt his feelings."
  • Shows faith in the child. Are you begging or threatening your students to behave? We've all been there at one point or another in our careers, but that just doesn't set them up for success. Show your students that you believe in them. If they make a mistake, address it when it happens.
  • It's respectful. It's respectful in word choice, tone, and body language. Most of what we say is interpreted by how we say it. Even if our words are perfect, if our facial expression is snarky, we've conveyed a different meaning than what we intended.

Reinforcing language is simply positive reinforcement that also serves as constructive feedback. There are a few things that bump it up from the typical positive reinforcement we've learned about or tried in our own classrooms. Now... I'm NOT telling you that positive reinforcement is BAD. It's not! It's simply not as effective as it can be at helping your students to grow. 

Here's what makes reinforcing language special:

  • It's specific. Seriously now, what does, "Good job," even mean? What exactly did I do a good job on? Oh, my writing? What in my writing was good?
    • Instead of saying: "Nice job writing!"
      Try saying: "Nice job using your checklist to help you elaborate," or, "Nice job adding commas in your lists!" Now your student can repeat the behavior.
  • It compliments progress, not just the product. Students don't go from no understanding to mastery right away. We need to praise growth, even if it's not the final product we hope for. If we can praise the good behaviors in the middle, it makes it easier to tackle the next behavior.
    • Instead of saying: "Great, now you have to remember to put your backpack away when you unpack."
      Try saying: "I noticed that when you practiced unpacking yesterday, you did not remember to put your backpack away. Today, you did remember! You are moving on the right track. Did you notice all of that extra growth too?"
  • It focuses on intrinsic motivation. We can't rely on motivating students with personal approval. What happens when they have a teacher they don't connect with well? What happens if there aren't exciting prizes in the next classroom? Instead of focusing on our approval, we need to focus on students doing the right thing because it's the right thing.
    • Instead of saying: "I like how you lined up quietly and showed self-control."
      Try saying: "You lined up quietly and showed self-control."
    • If you are someone who relies on saying "I like/love how you..." when reinforcing your students, my favorite way to break that habit is to say the same thing you would normally say without that little beginning part. This was exceptionally hard for me at first, but not having to re-work everything I said helped break this habit quickly.
  • It applies to all students. This is important to remember. Sometimes our most challenging students need the most reinforcement!

Monday, May 1, 2017

1 Activity That Will Revive Your Morning Meetings

1 Activity That Will Revive Your Morning Meetings by A Word On Third


If your Morning Meetings are feeling a little stale, it's time to try something new. This activity might be just what you need! It's called Rare Bird, and it can help you to strengthen your community. It can be used during the sharing component of Morning Meeting as well, though I prefer to use it as an activity. And of course, while it's definitely best to do all four components of Morning Meeting every day, it’s convenient to have an activity that acts as both sharing and an activity for those days where you’re really pressed for time.

1 Activity That Will Revive Your Morning Meetings by A Word On Third

Have the kids brainstorm what is special and unique about them, or what makes them a “rare bird.” You'll probably need to discuss this before you do this the first time (or first few times depending on the age of your class). This should also be something others can't easily guess based on what they know already about their classmates. For example, I've known students who had certain obsessions that everyone in class knew about--this is not the time to talk about those obsessions!

1 Activity That Will Revive Your Morning Meetings by A Word On Third

Students write their rare bird statement neatly on a post-it note or index card, and then you collect them all. Next read each card aloud and let the class take a few guesses as to who that “rare bird” might be. If nobody guesses correctly, the rare bird stands up.

Here are some variations to make this work in your classroom:

  • Have kids share new the things they learned about each other afterwards by playing "Who Remembers?"
  • Have kids share connections they made to each other after playing. 
  • Pass out each rare bird index card or post-it note to a different student. Have that child read the card out loud and see if they can guess who wrote the card he/she read. 
  • Provide support by brainstorming categories to prompt students’ thinking for rare bird statements (surprising fact, special skill or interest, etc.) 
  • Type up a sentence starter to make this faster for students. You may or may not include names.
  • Break this up over the course of a week. Read a few during transition times or down time in your classroom. (I recommend adding names to rare bird papers if you choose to do this. Students might forget what they wrote or they might be out.)
  • Use this as a closing circle activity instead of during Morning Meeting.
What makes YOU a rare bird as a teacher or in other areas of your life??