Monday, February 29, 2016

One Amazing Way To Empower Students

One Amazing Way To Empower Students


Hi, Teachers!

I've been reading so much material about alternative seating lately, and I'm sure you've seen it popping up in your social media feeds too! I even wrote a post about how I've used affordable seating options in my room until I can go full-blown yoga ball and standing desks. Kayla Delzer can often be seen talking about how she likes to imagine her room as a Starbucks. It started me thinking...

How can I empower my students to do their best learning in our classroom environment?

Have you wondered this before too? Well, the key here is that it's OUR classroom environment, not your classroom environment. The kids need to have power over what happens in their classroom. According to Marlynn Clayton, the author of Classroom Spaces That Work, we need to think of our classroom design and layout as fluid. If something doesn't work, move it around until it does. You can purchase or preview the book by clicking the picture below.


So since our classroom design is fluid, shouldn't the people who use it all of the time know how it needs to be changed to be most effective? Last week, I was thinking about how I could change our classroom when I realized that there were 23 people who I should be talking to about how to change it. I asked my kids what they wanted, and they were able to clearly tell me what they wanted. Here you can see some pictures of what things used to look like at the beginning of the year.

My class decided our group work table (over in the library area) should move away from the most-used part of the library to make it easier to access the shelves. They wanted a bigger meeting area too. Well, I'm really proud of what they came up with! Take a look!


Above you can see the library area. The leveled books are now easily accessible since they are the bulk of what is inside of each student's book bin. The choice books are still accessible, but our small group table has been moved in front of those bins instead. Here's another shot of the library area below.


And here's what it used to be...


That's a big change! Moving the desks helped a lot and opened up that corner of the room completely.

My kids told me what they needed, and I listened. I have to say, our room has been running SO smoothly lately, much more so than before. The kids were really invested in our conversation, and they were so helpful with moving furniture and generating ideas for a new layout. If we find something here isn't working, we'll talk about it together.

How might you let your kids take ownership of your room this year? If you're not ready to move furniture, what are you ready to let them change? Comment below! :)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Want To Stop Wasting Time & Learn My Newsletter Trick?

Want To Stop Wasting Time & Learn My Newsletter Trick?

Hi, Teachers!

Are you frustrated with writing, writing, and rewriting email newsletters to your students' families? It takes so much time!! That's exactly where I was last year. I'd spend an hour or two a week trying to perfectly craft a newsletter via email.

What if I told you I had a super easy, quick, and effective way of communicating with parents that takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish each week?

WELL, I DO!! And I'm sharing my idea with you so you can use it and get back valuable minutes--or maybe hours!--of your free time. Yippieeeee! So here are my tips for you. I promise you they are well worth the read. You'll never go back to your old ways! And if you don't write a newsletter right now... well start! After all, it takes less than 10 minutes each week!

Instead of writing a long email or several page newsletter that I guarantee several parents won't even get a chance to read, you need to create a short, one page classroom newsletter. According to Carol David and Alice Yang, the authors of the Responsive Classroom text Parents & Teachers Working Together (which might be my favorite professional text ever written!), many parents do not have the time to read your pages and paragraphs. Frankly, some CAN'T read them. If you have families who speak another language at home, this could be really hard for them if your newsletter isn't in their native language. Some don't regularly check emails, and sometimes your paper might not make its way home. You can read more about this (and a million other cool ideas) by clicking the link below to buy the book. Moreover, you spending the time writing a newsletter just ISN'T helping to build genuine, meaningful conversations about school at home.


So here's what you DO want to do. Make a one page template for your newsletter so that you don't have to make it over and over again. These are the things you will want to include in your template:

  1. The week's date
    This is self-explanatory... parents want to know when the things you share about in your newsletter are happening.
  2. An "Ask Me About" section
    This is by far the coolest part of the newsletter. Each week, spend a few minutes with your class (and I literally only mean a few minutes) reflecting on what was learned. If your kids need help coming up with ideas when you start doing this, start asking questions like, "What did we learn about in math this week that our parents can ask us about?" If they say something like, "multiplication," respond by saying "What strategies did we use to multiply?" This is great to do on a Thursday afternoon as a way of closing out the day. It's a great way to review concepts learned and share what students are proud of. The idea behind this is that the parents will be asking students about the things they learned. Now you've created meaningful conversations about school, you've gotten parents AND students involved in the conversation, and students are responsible for sharing what they learned. BOOM. Instant teacher awesomeness!
  3. A photograph
    This can be taken by you or your students. Personally, I have a class photographer in my classroom that is responsible for taking a few pictures of exciting events each day. If we do something unique, our photographer knows to take pictures of it. This is a job I model for the students. If you don't have the technological resources to make a camera available to your students, snap a quick picture on your smart phone. I recommend that you include a caption for your photograph. *Make sure to consider photography rules in your school district!*
     
  4. A reminder section
    This is a good place for you to remind parents of permission slip due dates, PTA meetings, field trip dates, early dismissal days, homework due dates, etc.  
Your class newsletter is now done! You can use it every week, or if you decide that's too much, you can use it every other week to start. Here's a sample of what my weekly newsletter might look like. I removed the picture of my class because I am not allowed to share pictures of my students' faces.


Want to use my template so you don't even have to make one? You got it! I have one available in my TeachersPayTeachers store for under a dollar! You can use it week after week, and your parents will appreciate how easy to read it is due to its short length and predictable structure. Just click the above picture of my newsletter sample to see my newsletter. Whether you use mine or make your own, I promise you that you will love this system, and so will your students' families.

What are your tips for communicating with parents? Make sure to comment below to share your ideas with other readers! Make sure you subscribe to my posts to get all of my latest tips delivered straight to your inbox. You can do that by entering your email address in the sidebar where it says, "Don't miss a post!"

Monday, February 22, 2016

How To Craft Fun & Effective Morning Messages

How To Craft Fun & Effective Morning Messages


Hi, Teachers!

Today marks the beginning of week 4 of the month of love. Every week this month, in honor of Valentine's Day and the month of LOVE, I have been hosting a link party about my favorite Responsive Classroom practice: Morning Meeting! This week we'll focus on the message component of morning meeting. If you want to read more about what morning meeting is and why you should use it in your room, check out the first post I wrote for the Month of Love link up here.



When I write my morning messages, I think about a few things. 
1. What academic or social-emotional concepts do my students need to practice more?
2. What is special about the day in terms of activities or learning objectives?
3. How much time will students have to read and answer the morning message?
I always have kids interact with the message, but if I'm short on time, I might write something like, "Be thinking about..." or have kids make a tally mark to vote on something. If I have more time, they might jot their answer on a post-it note and stick it to our message.

Here are my tips for creating fun but effective morning messages for your students every morning.

1. Try an inquiry-based approach.


Responsive Classroom loves interactive modeling because it puts the ownership on students to notice what is going on. If you are working to support a certain skill (academic or social-emotional), why not have kids figure out what makes something special? A few weeks ago, I was working to get kids to flesh out their written notes during reader's workshop. I popped some of the post-its they wrote during reading (which we refer to as "think notes") on the morning message one morning and asked them to notice what was so great about them. They stuff they came up with was amazing! After a short discussion during meeting, I noticed a really big difference in their written responses to reading, and I made some students feel really proud that their work was on display too.

2. Prepare students for something that might be unusual or difficult for them.

For example, if you have an assembly one day or a substitute teacher coming in, use the morning message to prepare them for it ahead of time. You might write, "Be thinking about what respectful behavior during an assembly looks and sounds like," or "How can you take care of yourself, our classroom, and our guest teacher while I am away?" During Morning Meeting, you (or the guest teacher) can have a discussion about it.

3. Practice math skills.

This is one of my favorite ways to use a morning message. If you're having students answer a specific question, they can tally their results or create a bar graph if you tape some graph paper to your chart. Then you can analyze the data and use it during math class! You could have students jot down some missing factor problems on a post-it note and have them write how to solve it on the back. The possibilities are endless!

If you're interested in learning more about Morning Messages specifically, I recommend that you check out this book:


I just ordered it a few days ago, and it's already a favorite! It'll show you so many new ways to put the spark back into your messages. There's also a grades 3-5 version available.


Now it's your turn to share your ideas! The only rules of the linkup are that you must:
  • Include the above image and a link back to my blog.
  • Be a good blogger and leave feedback on at least 1 other blog post.
  • Share your strategy for the component of Morning Meeting that the week focuses on.
I invite you to add your link below. :) No blog? No problem! Share your ideas in the comments then! Other teachers will benefit from your ideas. And if you like my ideas, make sure you enter your email on the side bar where it says "Don't miss a post!" so my blog posts will go straight to your email.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How To Take Care Of Yourself When You're Teacher-Tired Part 2

Helping Busy Teachers Practice Self-Care - A Word On Third


Hi, Teachers!

This past month has been super crazy for me. My grandma is in the hospital, I'm trying to plan a wedding, we're looking for a house, and on Tuesday night I was in a car accident. Do you know what I have right now? A SERIOUS CASE OF TEACHER-TIRED. Teacher-tired is the worst kind of tired, and I know you can agree with that.

In my previous post about teacher tired, I talked about some really important things you can do to take care of yourself and make your days easier and happier. The things I focused on were:

  1. Getting adequate sleep.
  2. Preparing healthy meals ahead of time.
  3. Learning systems to manage your time effectively.

I think these are really important tips, but I left out one of the best tips I can possibly share. It's something some people love, and something some people dread. It's...
GETTING EXERCISE!!

Now before you go all cray on me, HEAR. ME. OUT. I used to be a certified couch potato, and now I'd NEVER go back. I'm going to say something that you've heard before, but might not have believed. I really want you to read my whole idea before dismissing it.


The right exercise for you is any type of movement you choose to do.


It's that simple. Do you like yoga? Great! Go do it! Do you like running? Terrific-put on your sneakers! Do you like P90X or Crossfit? Super-start lifting! But... do you HATE doing high intensity interval training? THEN DON'T DO IT!!!! Seriously, it's that simple. If all you want to do is walk and talk to a friend on the phone or watch Netflix, then just do that!! Moving = stress relief, no matter how you move. Any trainer who tells you your exercise isn't long enough or hard enough and suggests that you try something you don't like to do is just wrong. You don't need to have chiseled abs to benefit from exercise. This is about taking care of yourself, not starving yourself or over-training. (I'm not saying that people who have chiseled abs do that--I'm simply saying that I'm not talking about toning up or bulking up in this post.)

Exercise has been my sanity when things go wrong. I haven't been able to exercise for the past week, and believe it or not, I'm chomping at the bit to get back into the gym. I feel so much better after spending some time moving. Sometimes all I do is walk around on the track, and that's OK. Don't let anyone tell you that your walking isn't good enough. And don't let anyone tell you than 10 minutes a day isn't good enough. Fit it in where you can afford it, and make it consistent. If all you can do is stretch for 5 minutes every morning, it's a great start. Here are my tips for fitting in some enjoyable exercise.

1. Use GoNoodle with your class.



GoNoodle is really fun. You can do calming or energizing little brain breaks with your class. Honestly, if you do it, you can get your heart rate up in only a few minutes. Click the above link to see the site. It's 100% free (unless you upgrade to the premium version, which you don't have to do to enjoy the benefits of the site), and your kids will love it! You can do a little yoga with your kids, or you might even choose some brain breaks that teach academic content too. My kids love Airtime Space, Mr. Catman, and the Sports brain breaks. The benefit of using GoNoodle is that you will build your community within your class.

2. Use YouTube.

There's TONS of free content on YouTube. I happen to love Blogilates more than I can possibly explain. I am a POPster through and through. Cassey Ho, the creator of Blogilates, even creates a free training schedule for you and has a free app you can download on your smartphone, all with her hundreds of free videos! I'll show you a few of my favorite videos. I love her stretching videos, and I also love some of her quick videos. They provide a really difficult workout in a very short amount of time! She also has thirty minute workouts that are totally do-able for beginners. Seriously, go check her out.


This is my favorite thing to do before bed! Soooo relaxing, and it feels so good. There's a bridge in this video. Don't like it? Don't do it! Or try a modified bridge.




This is going to BURN your legs and butt, but it is effective and quick. No time in the morning? Pop this on! Want to make use of your lunch time? Play it... you won't be terribly sweaty afterwards because it's quick! Don't like workouts that burn? Okay then, look at the next video.




This is a really fun video in my opinion. It's 27 minutes and it gets your whole body done. She shows you everything you need to know to do this healthfully.

Maybe these videos aren't for you, but check her channel out. She has so many workouts it's insane!

3. Take advantage of your time.

Do you have dogs? Make it a double whammy and take them for a walk. You'll feel better, your dogs will feel better, and you will have taken care of a chore while taking care of yourself! If you have kids, play with them outside for quality time. The possibilities are endless with this one. I also know some people who exercise during commercials. Maybe it's jumping jacks or sitting with a shake weight. Look up "exercising for lazy people" on Google and you'll find a surprisingly large amount of stuff!


Those are my tips for fitting some movement into your day! I feel such a noticeable difference in my mood when I get to exercise. What do you like to do? Do you like training hard? Do you like being zen? How do you fit it in? Comment below!

Monday, February 15, 2016

3 Morning Meeting Activities Your Students Will Love

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

Hi, Teachers!

Today marks the beginning of week 3 of the month of love. Every week this month, in honor of Valentine's Day and the month of LOVE, I have been hosting a link party about my favorite Responsive Classroom practice: Morning Meeting! This week we'll focus on the activity component of morning meeting. Next Monday will be about morning messages, and it will be the last Monday of the link party. If you want to read more about what morning meeting is and why you should use it in your room, check out the first post I wrote for the Month of Love link up here.


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


When I plan my morning meetings (and YES, I actually do plan them and recommend that you do too), I consider the big picture. Movement and time limitations are the first two things I consider. Have my kids just played baggage claim for their greeting? If so, maybe they don't need to move around, and I can do an activity that lets kids stay seated. Baggage Claim can also take a while, so I might plan a quick activity. If they have been sitting, I try to choose something more active. I try to always follow the rule of 10 for elementary students. During student teaching, my amazingly talented cooperating teacher told me once that I should aim to have kids move every ten minutes. If my mini-lesson is long and I can't let them work on independent work soon, I might have them enjoy a quick stretch break. I use this rule in my Morning Meetings.

Here are my current favorite activities to use during Morning Meeting (or maybe I should say my STUDENT'S current favorites).

1. Giants, Wizards, & Elves

My students' latest favorite is a game called "Giants, Wizards, and Elves," and it's a lot like "Rock, Paper, Scissors." Giants, wizards, and elves all have their own hand motions. Below you can see me acting them out.

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

Giants beat wizards by stomping on them (Don't worry. Your kids won't be stomping on each other!). Wizards beat elves by using magic on them (hence their hand symbol looks like someone pointing a wand). Elves beat giants by running around their feet and making them fall (their hand symbol is supposed to be their little elf hat). Now this is exactly like a normal game of "Rock Paper Scissors" except you split the class into halves. The kids must work in teams to decide which symbol they will use ahead of time. This builds the skill of cooperation for obvious reasons. Everyone needs to communicate and agree on their team's symbol. Students must use assertion to speak up if they're unsure of what symbol has been decided upon or to suggest an idea. They must also use self-control. If they yell about their ideas, the other team will hear and adjust their symbol accordingly. My kids love this! They have been asking to play it every day for the past few weeks.

2. Go Bananas

I used this song/chant with my first graders, and I did NOT expect my third graders to like it. I thought it would be too baby-ish for them. BOY was I wrong! I think they like it even more than my first graders did. It's definitely better if you ham it up for them.


I suggest modeling the song and movements before you let the kids try. You might also want to talk about how to stay safe while playing. During the banana split part at the end, the kids always want to go crazy. Make sure to use reminding language to ask kids how they can be safe as they play.

3. People To People

This is another one of my class favorites, probably because it's so active! Here's another video of adults at a Responsive Classroom training playing. You can call out any body parts you want. Instead of always calling out "head to head" or something with similar body parts, my kids always seem more excited when I call out different body parts, like "head to knee." Get creative, but use your best judgement about what is safe and what's not. Also... don't pick heads as body parts if there's a lice outbreak! Sorry... I don't want to be gross, but you don't need to learn that lesson the hard way! (I haven't either by the way... I just get ridiculous phantom itches when someone so much as whispers the word lice.)



So these are my 3 favorite activities as of late! You can do these during Morning Meeting, but they are also great brain breaks during transitions if you need one. You can also search "Energizers!" on youtube and find a TON of amazing Responsive Classroom videos if you want more ideas. Some of my other favorites on there are Robot Rap, Double This, Button Factory, and Popcorn's in the Popper. There's also an AMAZING book with tons of awesome brain breaks, broken down by what age they are best for and what social-emotional skills they reinforce.


I keep this at school because I take it out so often! I recommend checking it out by clicking the picture. (No, I promise I don't work for Responsive Classroom. I just love them THAT much!)


Now it's your turn to share your ideas! The only rules of the linkup are that you must:
  • Include the above image and a link back to my blog.
  • Be a good blogger and leave feedback on at least 1 other blog post.
  • Share your strategy for the component of Morning Meeting that the week focuses on.
I invite you to add your link below. :) No blog? No problem! Share your ideas in the comments then! Other teachers will benefit from your ideas. And if you like my ideas, make sure you enter your email on the side bar where it says "Don't miss a post!" so my blog posts will go straight to your email.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How To Use Positive Teacher Language To Put Power In Your Words

How To Use Positive Teacher Language To Put Power In Your Words


Hi, Teachers!

I DID IT! I completed the Jen Jones Periscope challenge, and now I can say I have my FIRST scope under my belt! I was SO nervous at first, but now that it's done, I feel like I could do another scope without worrying about it. You can watch the replay below.


In my scope, I talked about using language effectively to help you build a more positive classroom environment. Adjusting your language is HARD and it takes a LOT of time! It's not something that will change over night. It will probably take months or years before you it feels natural to you, and certainly years before you feel like you've made significant changes. There's always something you can improve upon when it comes to language. I'm certainly not perfect! Remember that it takes time and be kind to yourself.

Since it takes so much thought and effort to change our natural speaking habits, I created a practice sheet to help my colleagues  practice this when I presented this information during a professional development session. I practiced the same way when I made the decision to improve my language. I'm sharing these practice sheets as a freebie with you. There are 4 pages. Click the picture below to download it.
I also included a sheet with the 3 Rs of language so you can write your favorite conversational stems. When I started changing my language, I did this, and I posted my favorite stems that I wanted to start using right on my teacher bulletin board. I looked at it a lot during my prep periods and planning time. Looking at it often was what helped me change. I added to it gradually over the course of months. By now I have no idea where that paper went. It has probably been thrown out--I don't need it anymore because I've successfully incorporated that vocabulary into my language.

Here are some of the phrases I wrote down on my chart when I started. I hope you find them useful!

Reinforcing Language: 
  • I can see that you...
  • I noticed that...
  • You really followed our class rule ___ when you...
  • You worked hard to...
Reminding Language:
  • Remind me how to...
  • Show me what you need to do right now.
  • How can you follow our class rule ___ when you...
  • How might you solve this problem?
Redirecting Language:
  • Stop ___. Show me ___.
  • It's time to listen.
  • Show me active listening.
There are millions of options! These are only some to get you started. Remember--it's OK if it doesn't feel natural at first. I promise it will eventually. I hope you enjoyed my scope! What are your favorite phrases to use? Which type of language do you want to practice using more often first?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Catch My First Periscope On Positive Teacher Language Tomorrow at 8 PM EST!

Hi, Teachers!


That's right!! I'm going to be sharing my ideas about positive teacher language tomorrow night at 8 PM on the app Periscope. Make sure you download it and follow @AWordOnThird. Bring a pen and paper and get ready to hear some great ideas to help you build your relationships both with and among your students! Come ready with questions you might have too. I could talk about this for ages.

I can't wait to see you tomorrow!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Month of Love Link Up - Morning Meeting Shares


Hi, Teachers!

Today marks the beginning of week 2 of the month of love. Every week this month, in honor of Valentine's Day and the month of LOVE, I am hosting a link party about my favorite Responsive Classroom practice: Morning Meeting! This week we'll focus on the sharing component of morning meeting. Next Monday will be about morning meeting activities, followed by morning messages during the last week. If you want to read more about what morning meeting is and why you should use it in your room, check out the first post I wrote for the Month of Love link up here.



So in my classroom, there are three main types of sharing that we do:
  1. Dialogue sharing- a few students share about the topic at hand (it could be content-specific or about their personal lives). I model how to do this type of sharing by keeping it brief and sharing the main ideas. Students then ask thoughtful questions (rather than yes/no questions) to learn more about what their classmates shared, and the classmate who shared answers them.
  2. Partner sharing- very similar to a dialogue share, students share something content-specific or something about their personal lives with a partner. Students ask each other questions to clarify and build conversational skills. Everyone in the class is sharing at the same time, and both partners share.
  3. Circle sharing- All students go around in a circle, sharing their answer to a specific question with the whole class. 
Now, every now and then, I will vary from those 3 sharing structures, but it's not common. My favorite tip, no matter what type of sharing takes place, is to play "Who remembers?" at the end of a sharing session. This is really powerful because it helps keep students accountable for learning important speaking and listening skills, and it also emphasizes that what the kids share is actually thought of as something important. They are valued.

So if the kids are sharing with a partner, you might end the sharing session and before moving onto your morning meeting activity, you would say, "Who remembers what their partner shared?" and listen to a few ideas. Let's pretend that you facilitated a circle share in which you asked students what their favorite thing about winter is. You might ask, "Who remembers what Isabella likes the most about winter?" OR you might ask, "Who really likes drinking hot chocolate?"  The possibilities are endless! It keeps kids on their toes and emphasizes the importance of listening.

Another way I sometimes like to have kids share about themselves is to play a bingo mix, which, contrary to the way it sounds, is not a bingo game! Kids get up and moving and mingle with each other to find out which of their classmates can answer certain questions for them. For example, kids will look for classmates who speak a different language, own a pet, love to read, run quickly, are experts at solving conflicts, etc. This is a really nice way to build community. I'll bet you can guess what I play after using a bingo mix board ("Who remembers?")!

Click the picture above to be taken to a link to download my bingo mix freebie. I have a paid version available as well, which you can access by clicking a link in the description, but start out with the freebie and see how you like it! It's one of my kids favorite things to do. I use a lot of the boards as brain breaks throughout the day.


Now it's your turn to share your ideas! The only rules of the linkup are that you must:

  • Include the above image and a link back to my blog.
  • Be a good blogger and leave feedback on at least 1 other blog post.
  • Share your strategy for the component of Morning Meeting that the week focuses on.
I invite you to add your link below. :) No blog? No problem! Share your ideas in the comments then!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The 3 Greatest Affordable Flexible Seating Options

The 3 Greatest, Affordable Flexible Seating Options by A Word On Third

Hi, Teachers!

Everyone has been talking about flexible seating lately. If you follow Kayla Delzer online, you might have read her article about how she is trying to make her room feel like a Starbucks. Edutopia has also written plenty of content about flexible seating, citing that the major shift in seating has inspired many positive changes:
  • Their students' grades have improved.
  • Their students seem happier and more engaged.
  • Their students are participating more and having more invigorating conversations.
So what are you waiting for? Hop on the flexible seating bandwagon! Personally, I've been interested in going really far with flexible seating, but until I raise the funds to get the necessary furniture my vision requires, I am doing a lot of really easy, affordable things in my room right now. I'm going to share my 3 favorite flexible seating options in my room.

1. Crate chairs

The 3 Greatest, Affordable Flexible Seating Options by A Word On Third

These are my most expensive suggested seating option, but they are fabulous because they are still super cheap, they are quick and easy to make, and they double as storage! In the book Classroom Spaces That Work by Marlynn K. Clayton (this is a favorite of mine, which can be purchased here), Clayton suggests that all furniture should have a minimum of two uses. Well, these crates certainly fit the bill, and they are mobile too! My students use these every single day. In fact, I cannot recall a time when these have been available to my students when they HAVEN'T been used! They are usually all taken within seconds of dismissing students to do their independent work.

You check out a tutorial on how to make them here. If you're smart about purchasing fabric, you can get these really inexpensively. Make sure the crates you get have the little plastic lip on the top so the seat tops have something to sit on. If you ask your lunch room, they may even have some milk crates hanging around that you can use for free!


2. Use the floor

The 3 Greatest, Affordable Flexible Seating Options by A Word On Third

This is a no-brainer. Everyone's classroom has a floor. IT'S FREE TOO. When you have no money and no way of getting the furniture you're dreaming about, in the meantime, let your kids use some clipboards and get cozy on the floor! Most people have clipboards, and it would be easy to get these as parent donations in most schools if you ask for them on Back To School Night.

Most elementary classrooms have rugs in the meeting area. That's the perfect place for kids to curl up with a book! We have lots of "belly readers" in my classroom. My kids will often write on the carpet as well. Here, you can see a smaller area rug which I purchased for my library area. It's much cozier than the regular carpet on the floor. I'll usually end up seeing between 1-3 students in this area during independent work time in any subject area. In my much larger meeting area, there's at least 4-6 students working at any given moment. I have little carpet squares in my room that the kids pull out and sit on pretty often too. You can get bath mats at the dollar store that will accomplish the same thing, or you could make some with some foam pads and fabric if you're feeling crafty.


3. Use the desks

The 3 Greatest, Affordable Flexible Seating Options by A Word On Third

When I was a kid, I liked to stand when I worked. I would always be told to sit down. Have you ever done this? Think again before you do next time. A lot of kids need to move around a little bit more when they work. You already have desks which can be used in your room as standing desks! Can you get your custodian to raise them as high as they can go? If so, you've got yourself a standing desk! This is also free.


So, in this post, you've read about 3 flexible seating options, 2 which you can use right now at this very second, and a third that you can use with very little time, money, and effort on your part. If you're like me, you're still eyeing the yoga balls and seat cushions for the floor, but remember flexible seating doesn't have to be fancy to work. If you can make any changes at all, no matter how small, they are still beneficial.

By the way, did you read my last post? I am hosting a linky party all month! On Monday I wrote about my favorite greeting to use in Morning Meeting. Want to link up!? YES, OF COURSE YOU DO! Share your favorite morning meeting greeting by clicking the picture below to be taken to the link party! (Or, ya know... just scroll down to the very next post.) Next week I'll be posting on Monday about my favorite Morning Meeting share strategy. Be ready to link up for that too! The Month of Love Link Up is counting on you to share your ideas!!


How do you provide flexible seating on a budget in your room? Do you let your students stand or sit wherever they want? Comment below!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Link Up For The 4 Weeks Of The Month Of Love!


Hi, Teachers!

Every week this month, in honor of Valentine's Day and the month of LOVE, I am hosting a link up! These link ups center around my most favorite Responsive Classroom practice: Morning Meeting! Each week we'll focus on a different component of meeting, starting with this Monday (today) and ending on Monday the 22nd. You can join the link up all week!

The rules of the linkup are that you must:

  • Include the above image and a link back to my blog.
  • Link my post up on Monday (later on is OK too!).
  • Be a good blogger and leave feedback on at least 1 other blog post.
  • Share your strategy for the component of Morning Meeting that the week focuses on.
That's it! If you're wondering what a Morning Meeting is, it's only the COOLEST way to start your day and build your community. I highly recommend following the link-up. Responsive Classroom says:
Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting is an engaging way to start each day, build a strong sense of community, and set children up for success socially and academically. Each morning, students and teachers gather together in a circle for twenty to thirty minutes and interact with one another during four purposeful components: 
Greeting Students and teachers greet one other by name and practice offering hospitality.
Sharing Students share information about important events in their lives. Listeners often offer empathetic comments or ask clarifying questions.
Group Activity Everyone participates in a brief, lively activity that fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills (for example, reciting a poem, dancing, singing, or playing a game that reinforces social or academic skills).
Morning Message Students read and interact with a short message written by their teacher. The message is crafted to help students focus on the work they’ll do in school that day.
So let's get started! Today, we'll be focusing on....



My favorite Morning Meeting Greeting is called "Baggage Claim." It's great for several reasons, including the fact that it gets kids moving and it helps kids get to know their classmates. I've written about it (and other ways to get kids moving) in this blog post.

The kids start off by writing their name on an index card and the answer to a question that you ask them. It might be an academic question or a social-emotional question. Today, for example, when my kids did this greeting, I asked them to write about one thing they like about themselves. It can honestly be that simple! Make sure they have their index cards written before Morning Meeting starts. You can include this in your "Do Now" when kids walk in. My kids know that an index card on their desk means that they need to prepare for Baggage Claim. 

Next it's time to play! The kids follow this template when they greet each other:



Basically, Partner A says "Good Morning, ____!! Let me show you what's in my bag!" Then they read off of their card. So, today my kids added, "I like myself because ___." Then Partner B did the same thing. Here's the cool part... PARTNERS A & B TRADE THEIR BAGGAGE CLAIM CARDS! This means that they have "lost their bags." When they go to greet other people, they say that they have lost their bag, but they share what is in their last partner's bags. The kids crack up when they lose their bag but get their bag again. 

I love this greeting SO MUCH because you get to learn about classmates OR, if you choose to write an academic question (like, "What is one thing you learned about butterflies?"), then students get to review important concepts. After we greet each other by using the baggage claim structure, I like to play "Who remembers?" Basically, I ask students if they remember what a particular student wrote or who wrote a particular thing on their baggage claim cards.

And on a different note... what are you doing for Valentine's Day? Have you decided yet?? My students are going to be working on a differentiated Valentine's Day logic problem at the beginning of next week. I created it! It's in my store, and it's only a dollar right now. You can check it out by clicking the picture below. It's debuting in my store at a discounted price, but the price will increase before Valentine's Day. Get it while it's cheap! The premise of the Great Chocolate Disaster problem is that your students need to help you put the chocolates back into their proper spots in the box so you can share them with a friend who has nut allergies. You don't know which chocolates are which without solving the logic problem! 



Anyway, what's your favorite Morning Meeting Greeting? Make sure to comment below and add your blog to the link up! If you're a Responsive Classroom fanatic like I am, make sure to keep checking back to learn more new tips from other teachers. Click the blue button below to add your blog post!