3 Must-Read Posts To Help You Stay Sane At The End Of The Year

The end of the year can stress any teacher out. Make sure to check out these 3 posts to hold onto your sanity as the year closes!

3 Must-Read Posts To Help You Stay Sane At The End Of The Year by A Word On Third

1. My 3 Best Secrets For Finishing Report Cards Quickly

Report cards don't need to ruffle your feathers. I get mine done in a day or two. My comments take a day at most.

Start by selecting your grades so you can beast it with your comments. Click here or on the picture below to see how you can do the same.

2. 4 Steps To Deconstructing Your Classroom In Just ONE Day

I love Angela Watson (the author of this post) because she is so darn practical and organized. She wrote this awesome post on how to clean up and take down your classroom in a few hours (just one school day).

I'm leaving my classroom up and running 100% until the second to last day of school. I'll be using her system. Click here or on the picture to snag her spectacular ideas. I recommend purchasing her product on Teachers Pay Teachers too; I'm so thrilled to be using it this year!

3. How To Introduce Supplies And Routines Easily And Effectively

When I introduce routines, I always use interactive modeling. It's easy to forget that interactive modeling is crucial for the end of the year too!!

Click here or on the picture below to check out the 7 steps to interactive modeling and see which ones you can skip at the end of the year when routines are well-established.

I hope these 3 posts help you to sleep easily before your school year ends! I think the one that will make me happiest for next year is Angela Watson's post for packing up quickly and effectively.

If you're already thinking about setting up for next year, make sure you go download my teacher's toolkit to help you launch reader's workshop. The price will be going back up soon, so grab it while it's at its lowest price! Click here or on the picture below to see my toolkit with 27 ready-to-go lessons, anchor charts, conferring note-taking templates, materials for your students, and more.

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.

4 BIG Reasons Why You Need A Class Mascot

One tool I love to use when building my classroom community is using a class mascot. Our class' mascot is named Puddleton, and he's a stuffed pig. He travels home with a different student each night in his canvas bag, and that student writes about what they did with him in his diary. Here's why you absolutely need a class mascot too!

4 BIG Reasons Why You Need A Class Mascot

1. It creates community.

Taking the class mascot home is a big deal for my students. They are so excited to bring a piece of the class home to their families and share about their day. It's also meaningful for my students to share a bit of home with something from the class. Blending home and school into the same world for students is so powerful.

My students feel like Puddleton is our own little inside joke, something only our class gets to experience. I tell the class that Puddleton wants to go on whatever adventures the students go on each night and ask them to take him with them everywhere. He really does. My students often draw or glue pictures about what they do with him.

So far, Puddleton has eased anxiety at doctor's offices, gone on vacations, visited grandparents, celebrated birthdays and attended birthday parties, and more. My students read to him (whoo-hoo for practicing fluency), and he meets with their stuffed animals.

I've been told it's "too babyish" for third graders, but I let my students be the judge of that. For several years now, my third graders LOVE Puddleton! They love taking him home, and they even ask classmates to trade days with them if something important is going on. I never force them to take him home, but it's never been a problem.

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2. It strengthens writing skills.

Giving kids (especially your reluctant writers) a little time to practice writing with a different mindset is really important. The nice thing about writing in the class mascot's diary is that it seems less tedious than other writing assignments.

Whether each student writes in several lengthy paragraphs or writes in a bulleted list form and adds some pictures, this is still valuable. At the very least, it helps students to practice organizing their ideas and writing sequentially. Since diary entries naturally share what the writer did first, next, last, etc., it allows for writers to think about the structure of their writing. This is a huge push in the elementary grades, and something my writers tend to find challenging at the beginning of the year. Every little bit counts.

As a bonus, I can look at diary entries and sometimes see what I need to teach to specific writers too!

3. You can learn about your students' personal lives.

I really enjoy stopping to read through the entries my students write in Puddleton's journal. This is a pretty accessible way for my quieter, more reserved students to share a snapshot of their day at home. Sometimes I learn about frustrations my students have at home. Other times I learn about outrageously cool hobbies my students have that they didn't share about. I know when mom or dad goes away on a business trip or a baby sibling is crying all night and preventing my student from sleeping.

Knowing this information helps me to show up as a better teacher for my students. Of course it ends up being ridiculously entertaining, sometimes too... like the time one of my students wrote that his family ate bacon for dinner and it "offended" Puddleton. (Remember, he's a pig!)

It's such an easy way to know what's going on in my student's lives.

4. Your students can learn about each other.

Because it's such an easy way to learn about students, my students learn about each other by reading through diary entries too! It can help my students learn about common interests they have with their classmates. Since it's so often used as an outlet for students to share personal news, students love talking about what they wrote about in the diary with each other.

My kids LOVE reading his diary; I find that some even write it in their reading log. I'm totally fine with that! At the beginning of the year, I even include a full diary (which is just a notebook) from the previous year's students. That way, they see where Puddleton has been, see that he's an important part of our class, and there's always plenty to read.

If you're looking for another way to build community, go download my bingo mix boards for under a dollar; they'll last you all year! Click here or on the picture above to check them out or be taken to a freebie if you want a sample.

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.

6 Ways To Ease Your Students' Test Anxiety

Do you have students who display signs of anxiety during testing season? Whether you're stuck administering the PARCC test, the STAR test, or some other standardized test, the anxiety that comes along with testing is very real for some students.

If you work hard to build students' confidence and a healthy classroom community, you already know that that anxiety can be very damaging. Here are 6 tips to help off-set some of that negativity.

6 Ways To Ease Your Students' Test Anxiety by A Word On Third

1. Meditate.

You might be thinking, who has time for that weird, fluffy stuff? First of all, it's not all fluff at all; meditation is scientifically proven to have so many benefits. Second, we need to make time if it means our students will feel better. Meditation will help your students clear their minds.

A meditation might only be 1 or 2 minutes long for students at an elementary age. It doesn't have to take long. You can search YouTube for pre-exam meditations, kid-friendly meditations, or a 1 minute meditation that's not specific to kids or testing at all. Try this one with your class.

2. Be honest.

What is the test really about for you? In my state, standardized testing is really about evaluating the teacher. It has no bearing on my students and their future class placement. If your situation is similar, you might tell the kids just that. 

Each year, I tell my kids that the test is meant to measure how well I've taught and how much they learned. I tell them that they can get a 0% or 100% and neither score will impact them positively or negatively. They'll be in the same class no matter what their scores are, and they won't miss out on any opportunities due to a low score. All they need to do is try their best; they're already prepared.

It also helps to remind the test that it doesn't measure them as an entire person. A test can't measure how friendly, artistic, creative, or hardworking you are. It just measures how you can show what you know on that particular day.

3. Model being calm.

This one is probably a no-brainer, but it's important enough to mention. If the test stresses you out, your kids will be stressed out too. If it's hard for you to not be frazzled by the test, then model other self-care and calming techniques for your students. If you ooze peacefulness, your students will pick up on that. Try to hide your own anxiety about the test if you have any.

4. Celebrate.

There are so many ways to celebrate taking the test, and doing this boosts your classroom's morale. I saw this adorable idea on Instagram and decided to follow suit. I grabbed some light-colored pants and had my kids sign them; now on testing days, I wear my "smarty pants." It makes my kids smile and relax, and since I administer the test, I walk around in my smarty pants which is comforting to them during the test.

While I do not believe in giving kids prizes for behaving well, I do think it's nice to share a few treats every now and then for no reason other than to celebrate! I've been giving my kids a small treat (pencils, erasers, etc.) every morning of standardized testing, just like @thirdgradegoals on IG!

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5. Use positive affirmations.

Have your kids say a password to enter or exit the room. The trick here is to make the password a positive affirmation. During testing this week, our class password was, "I can do difficult things." Click here or on the picture below to learn more about using a password in class.

6. Communicate with parents.

Tell the parents what they need to know about the test (see point number 2 on this post). What are they responsible for and what are you responsible for when it comes to testing? I tell my parents the best way to help their child is not to study or cram for the test; instead it's to get their child to bed early and help them to eat a nutritious breakfast.

Parents often get stressed about their child's performance on the test because they worry about how it will impact their child. That's why it's so important for you to model being calm to your students and their families!

Good luck with testing, guys!! On a separate note, did you download the free growth mindset learning progression I shared with you last week yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Click here or on the picture below to grab it! 

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog.

Download This Free Learning Progression Before You Forget!

A few days ago, I posted a picture on my Instagram account that got a really positive response. You guys saw my self-directed learning progression and you all said you wanted it! Since you wanted it, it's up for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, so grab it now before you forget!! Click here or on the picture below to grab your copy.

I like this learning progression because it helps the students to assess where they are in three areas: academics, problem-solving capabilities, and social-emotional development. The rubric is also growth mindset-friendly because it moves from "Not Yet" all the way to "Wow!!!"

I used my school's poster maker to make a big copy of this progression. It hangs on our wall next to our class rules. We refer to it often. I also use these with students sometimes--they just circle the one they feel best describes where they are at a given moment.

I have two versions of the rubric, one that mentions "CARES" (a Responsive Classroom idea) and one that just mentions "good classroom citizenship." Pick the one that works for you and start using it!

If you don't discuss CARES in your classroom, I absolutely recommend introducing it at the beginning of the year. These social skills are all-encompassing. If you've got these 5 qualities under control, you're in a really good place! I always mention these to my students and say that one of our class goals will be to develop these qualities as individuals.

Did you download the learning progression yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Click here to grab it!

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog. 

3 Teacher Routines You Need To Have A Smooth Day

We've all had days in the classroom where we feel like a chicken running around with no head. Truthfully, preparing ahead of time takes the majority of this kind of stress away. These 3 routines will let you feel more zen in your classroom.

3 Teacher Routines You Need To Have A Smooth Day

1. Prepare for the next morning before you leave.

For me, this means my morning message is ready, my schedule is posted on the board, and the morning Do Now is ready to go for my kids.

I don't want to run around like a crazy person if something delays me in the morning. Doing this takes a few extra minutes, and I don't leave the same time the kids do, but this makes me so much happier. My mornings are spent on my terms, greeting my kids at the door--not rushing to catch up.

The few extra minutes it takes to do this is well worth the investment and sets a productive, calm tone for the day.

If the idea of this sends you into a panic, have students help you with these jobs. My students know how to read my lesson plans and set up the daily schedule. Students can clean your room, prepare many materials for games or centers, etc. At the end of the day during dismissal procedures, this is all my students do while they wait for the bus. Class jobs are great for building responsibility in the classroom, but they're also great for helping you!

2. Use your prep periods wisely.

Close your door. Stop talking to your neighbors. Put your phone away.

Use each prep period to complete a specific task. When I started doing this at the suggestion of my super organized colleague Ali, my life changed. I will never forget her for sharing this brilliant, underestimated tip with me.

Here's what my schedule looks like this year. Make one that works for you.

One of my biggest changes? I make all of my copies for one week at ONE TIME. For me, this is usually Friday afternoon. If you don't want to stay after school on Friday, can you do it on Thursday? Prepare for the week ahead by gathering all of the copies you'll need and make them. 

You'll feel good because you won't be worrying about paper jams or waiting in line to copy when you only have 5 minutes before your lunch period ends. Nothing asks for a chaotic day more than being unprepared or preparing last minute and worrying about it.

You can make it pretty and Pinterest-y by using a system like the one below. Or, you could do what I do and just grab 5 file folders (one for each day of the week) and shove your copies in there. 

3. Teach a rock-solid quiet signal.

Use interactive modeling to make sure your quiet signal is never ignored. The second it is even a little bit off, reteach and remodel it to your class. If your quiet signal isn't taken seriously, you won't feel calm or have a smooth day. You'll be fighting with your students for their attention. Even if it seems like it's going 99% well, your students will eventually get 1% worse incredmentally until you notice your quiet signal is meaningless. That's not an intentional choice your students are making--it's just human nature!

Caltha Crowe is a masterful Responsive Classroom educator. Watch her above to see how she uses a quiet signal with her class. Remember--interactive modeling only needs to take a few minutes. This is not so much about introducing the quiet signal perfectly (though obviously, that helps) as it is about being a stickler to make sure it is followed. Expect perfection when it comes to quiet signals, and you will not regret it.

Obviously, there are so many things we can do to feel prepared and in control of our day, but these 3 practices really make a huge difference for me. I feel much less stressed when I practice these daily.

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog. 

4 Quick Morning Meeting Activities Your Students Will Love

I'm always looking for more Morning Meeting activities. They not only spice up my Morning Routine, but they often serve as good brain breaks for my class mid-day when they need a quick energizer or break. Here are a few of my latest favorites.

4 Quick Morning Meeting Activities Your Students Will Love by A Word On Third

1. Questions & Clues

Have your class sit in a circle. Write a word on an index card and tape it to a student’s back. That student will be the guesser, and his/her job will be to ask questions to determine what the word is. Have the student spin around in a circle so all of the students in the class know what the mystery word is. Assign one student to be the counter.

Have the guesser ask the class 5 yes-or-no questions to the class about the word. They might ask what part of speech it is, if it’s a word associated with a particular subject area, etc. Everyone in the class can respond to the yes or no question with a thumbs up for yes or a thumbs down for no. Once the 5 questions are up, the counter will inform the guesser that his/her questions are over, and it is time to receive 3 clues. The guesser can call on 3 students to give clues about what the word is. After the 3 clues have been given, the counter tells the guesser to guess.

By third grade, I tend to do this with math, science, or social studies vocabulary, but you could do this with sight words too!

2. Silly Sentences

Have your students work in partnerships. Write a word wall word down somewhere on the morning message (or perhaps have them identify and circle one that's already written on it).

Tell the partnerships to brainstorm a silly sentence that is grammatically correct using words that start with each letter of the word.

For example, the word CAT might create, "Carly Ate Toes."

Share a few sentences and use the class to help revise any sentences that are not grammatically correct. Repeat as many times as time allows! Practicing spelling and grammar at the same time is a big win in my book.

3. People To People

This is one of my favorites for when my class gives me that "eyes-glazed-over" look. This gets everybody giggling. My kids laugh especially hard when you match ears with far-away body parts like knees! Watch how to play below. You can even teach your kids to play by having them watch the video and using that as the example for interactive modeling.

4. Bingo Mix

These are a lot of fun because they teach you more about your class! Students start with the same bingo board, like the one in the picture below. To get bingo, students must fill up their whole board. If you have early finishers, have them try to get a second round of bingo using new names again. I typically have my students mingle for about 3 minutes when we play bingo.

Students ask their classmates about the statements in each box (like "enjoys reading") until they find someone who fits that statement. Then they write that student's name in the box. If you want to take it a step further, have students ask a follow-up question to learn even more about their classmates. 

Bingo boards are really easy to make, but I already have a few freebies for you to download here so you can start tomorrow with no prep. If you want some to last you the whole year, you can grab these for only 99 cents; they will last you all year! There are even themed bingo boards for each holiday. So, if you'd rather pay 99 cents and save yourself some serious time, click here or the picture below.

Want to find even more Morning Meeting activities? Check out my previous post with 3 other ideas here or by clicking the picture below. Also, which activity looks the most fun to you? Share your favorite with me below.

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. That way, you won't miss any blog posts. I promise not to clutter your inbox! Make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas than I put on my blog. 

Are You Looking For Free & Easy STEAM Activities For Your Class?

It seems like everyone has a MAKER space in their classroom for STEM & STEAM activities nowadays. I love exposing my kids to these kinds of rich tasks, but it can be really intimidating to get started. Do you feel the same way?

It's also challenging to find ways to fit this stuff in. It's not usually in our curriculum! How do you create worthwhile STEAM tasks that can be completed within a reasonable amount of time anyway?! What kind of magical, time-bending creatures do they think we are, anyway... TEACHERS? Oh, wait... yes, we're teachers. Sorry, forgot that was in the job description! ;)

Anyway, that's why I'm really happy that Guinness World Records reached out to me to share their new book Science & Stuff. I've been struggling with these questions for some time, and this will help me with finding some answers. If I'm being honest, I usually just delete emails that I get from other companies trying to promote books and other materials. I'm not willing to share anything I'm not super excited about on my blog.

I'm totally pumped to try out the ideas from Guinness' new book Science & Stuff. Click here or on the picture below to check out the book for yourself!

First of all, my students love these kinds of science books. Engaged readers = happy teacher! Does your class constantly pick up the Guiness, Who Would Win?, or Nat Geo Kids books? Year afte ryear, mine never put them down! Let me know in the comments below if your classes are as obsessed with these books as mine are.

I also appreciate how useful this can be during my science instruction; I can whip out a page or two during every science unit I teach when I'm introducing a new unit of study or encourage students to dig deeper in areas of interest. I'll also use the book to supply me with close reading or shared reading passages that are engaging, informative, and useful in my balanced literacy classroom.

However, what I think you'll like the most and what I like the most is the STEAM experiment guide! There are 10 challenging STEAM experiments for any class to try included in the book. This was the part that got me interested in checking out the book! There are directions, materials lists, and lots of other useful information to get your class experimenting.

Because I want to make sure you enjoy the experiments as much as I do, you can download half of them right now for free by clicking here or clicking the picture below. You'll be taken to an awesome experiment guide.

We'll be trying to break a world record by the end of the year in my class using some of these experiments! Since we're about to study measurement, I figure we'll have a marshmallow catapult Olympics and measure the distance of each marshmallow's flight. HOW FUN IS THAT!? I'm stoked. Are you going to try to break a record? If so, comment below and tell me which one you'll try!

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. Also, make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas!