Monday, April 25, 2016

Why Technology is Key to Differentiation

Hi, Teachers! Today you will be hearing from my friend Talia over at Front Row! She wrote a really cool guest post about differentiating with technology. Enjoy!


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When I was still in the classroom, I tried to differentiate for my students as often as I could. My students were in 11th and 12th grade, so while some of them were at an AP/pre-college level, other students were recent immigrants and read English at a middle school level. I didn’t know which way to teach: should I cater to my struggling students and make the class level easier overall, or should I push my higher-level students and get them prepared for the AP classes and college courses that awaited them? I had no choice: I needed to differentiate. I cared too much about my students not to. 

Unfortunately for me, my differentiation tactics became quite intricate. For every unit exam, the majority of our weekly quizzes and even some in-class assignments, I had 3 different levels of content that kids could choose from -- ‘purple’ for the highest-level students, ‘green’ for the students who needed more scaffolding, and ‘blue’ for students in between. Thus, it’s with a lot of jealousy that I look at today’s education landscape and recognize how many more opportunities exist for teachers to accomplish the same level of differentiation, with just a fraction of the work. All these strategies are grounded in technology, which seems to have blasted open opportunities for teachers to differentiate meaningfully in their classrooms. Here’s how:

1. Differentiating Instruction

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Instruction may be the hardest area for teachers to differentiate, since providing personalized instruction to 20+ students is no small task. And while differentiated instruction certainly becomes easier with older students (who become more self-aware of how to select materials to fill in their knowledge gaps), I still believe it’s possible at younger grades. For example, you can introduce your students to concepts by giving them a host of videos -- Khan Academy, Brainpop, Edpuzzle are great tools to use -- and letting them choose which ones to watch. Or, with inquiry-based lessons like the ones offered by Front Row, students -- regardless of their background knowledge -- can work collaboratively to reach a high conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts. By working in groups, students fill in gaps in knowledge for one another, instead of the teacher having to do this for each student.

2. Differentiating Practice

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Independent practice is the area where I’ve seen most teachers differentiating. I’ve seen some teachers give students a choice with which math products they want to practice (ex: Front Row, TenMarks, MobyMax). With tools like Front Row, the practice is automatically differentiated for teachers, since the program tailors both math and reading content to the strengths and challenges of each individual student.

3. Differentiating Assessment

Assessment is another area in which technology can make things drastically easier for teachers. In my classroom, I effectively designed assessments that related to different learning standards: one that would be focused on easier skills, and one that would be focused on higher-level skills. This consumed hours upon hours of my time. Tools like Front Row allow you to give out different assessments to different groups of students, and automatically tailor your assessment to their needs. For example, if you know you need to review 2nd grade math skills with some struggling students in your 3rd grade class, you can assess those students on 2nd grade standards on Front Row. Similarly, if you allow your gifted students to practice more advanced standards but still want to hold them accountable, you can assess them on 4th or 5th grade standards and see what they mastered.

Whether it be through instruction, practice, or assessments, technology has made it easy for teachers to differentiate for each of the students in their class with the simple click of a button. Though technology isn’t perfect and hasn’t solved many challenges that teachers typically face, differentiation is one area that has greatly benefitted from its use. I hope these different tactics and tools are helpful for making your classroom an inclusive, supportive environment for all learners!





Talia Arbit is currently the Community and Growth Manager at Front Row Education. She previously taught high school science in San Jose, California and also served as the science department chair at her school. Following her time in the classroom, Talia transitioned into the EdTech sector, where she works with teachers to implement more technology into their classrooms.






Want to guest post on my blog? Send me an email at awordonthird@gmail.com and let's chat! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD... DON'T DO IT!



Is this what your classroom looks like at the end of the summer when you get it ready for a new year? 


This is what my first classroom looked like. This was the "before" picture I took... but the scary part is that this was after 2 FULL DAYS of cleaning from 7 AM to 9 PM with the help of my family members. You can only imagine what was in this room. Here are some more normal (and more accurate) before pictures of some of my previous rooms...

YUCK!

THE HORROR!!!!

Seriously. Who has time for it? The shoving things into the closet in a rushed tizzy, the throwing caution to the wind and putting anything and everything into unlabeled, disorganized boxes. Why do we do this to ourselves every year?  I don't even want to put my logo on those awful pictures!! They raise my blood pressure just THINKING about it. This year does NOT have to be the same.

I challenge you to do these three things:

1. Get rid of unused and unnecessary items.
2. Organize bit by bit every day.
3. End your year with a calm smile.

Okay, so that's only actually two things. But I highly recommend the smile anyway! The best part is I really don't have to elaborate more on this. It's actually really easy to do.

I've been in the midst of a crazy time in my personal life. I've been MOVING! Mr. Word On Third and I are moving into our first home on May 7th. I'm packing like a crazy woman. I could not be happier for the move to be happening before the school year ends. WHAT!? DID I REALLY JUST SAY THAT?

Yes, I did. And here's why. I'm thinking of decluttering in a new way. Because I'm seeing how much easier this is making my move, I'm realizing this transfers over to my classroom too! I've been reading a book that has been really helping me to get rid of my stuff. And the best part? When I am organized in a way that makes sense for me and that makes me happy, and when I'm surrounded by ONLY the things I really like, it is so. easy. to keep the clutter away.


I recently started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and it's really helpful. I like that it's a fast read (the author has a conversational tone) that helps in a practical way. Kondo comes up with tons of strategies to help you clean and declutter effectively, but she also helps you through decluttering in an emotional sense. We all hang on to stuff because someone special gave it to us, because we think we might need it later, because it works well and we feel bad getting rid of stuff... Well, it's got to stop. And what a better time than to start doing this in my classroom now? I've already gotten rid of 2 boxes of charts and cleaned my whole closet. I did that in 30 minutes. This approach is working for me!

It's simple. You get rid of the stuff you don't need, want, use, or love. Go through items categorically. (All books first, then all art supplies, etc.) Then, and only then, do you find a permanent home for these items. Seriously, go read that book. It was so worth the read! You might not agree with Kondo 100% of the time, but her book didn't become a best-seller by repeating the same, old, boring information you're used to.

Need a simpler place to start? Check out this post I like by Making Meaning With Melissa!


I promise you, though, if you do a little, and you do it every day, your classroom will be so easy to pack away until August! If all you can fit in is 5 minutes a day, I promise you won't regret it!


Here's a scope I recorded on this topic a few days ago. By the way, did you guys know that Katch is disappearing!? Save your videos now before it's gone for good!

So what are you going to do to clean your classroom first? Comment below! And make sure you subscribe to my blog by midnight tonight... I'm giving out a freebie for my birthday today to all of my subscribers. It's a paid product in my store, but I love my readers, and I want to take care of you! Enter your email on the right sidebar where it says, "Don't miss a post!" Alright... off I go for my morning run with my dog Ruffles! I'm trying Couch To 5 K. Have you guys tried that program?

Monday, April 18, 2016

How To Best Boost Student Confidence

How To Best Boost Student Confidence with A Word On Third


Have you ever felt that you worked your butt off only to receive no validation? Ever feel like you hear a never-ending stream of what to improve upon but nothing about what you did well? Of course you have. We all have. It feels AWFUL, doesn't it?

Now, have you ever had a teacher, parent, or boss who always seemed to notice the little things you did to make a difference? Didn't it feel like a million bucks that someone noticed all of that hard work?? Especially when you're used to the little criticisms all the time!

It is really easy for teachers to fall into the trap of constant critiquing. Most of us were taught this way as children. In college, we were taught to look at assessments, find the mistakes, and teach into those mistakes. What if I told you that your students could accomplish the same (or better!) learning if you spent some time looking at what was working really well for your students before looking for their mistakes? It's true! Anyone who has had a teacher that behaved this way can attest to this. Think about your own best, most loved teachers--they probably did this for you.

Today I want to teach you my current 5 favorite tips for boosting student confidence. They are quick and easy to implement, and they will drastically improve morale with and among your students because they will give students a sense of significance. And along with confidence comes academic performance, so there's no reason not to try these tips!

1. Use a TON of reinforcing language.

Reinforcing language is just constant noticing and naming of the good things you see in your classroom. If a child finally capitalizes a proper noun or puts a metaphor in his writing, you could use reinforcing language to reinforce that behavior by saying, "Wow, I can see you used a metaphor to craft your writing. Now I can really imagine what that must feel like for the character in your story. Your readers will be able to envision that too!"

I previously scoped about this topic. You can watch my video about the 3 Rs of language (reinforcing, reminding, and redirecting) here. The big take aways are that you want to be SPECIFIC and remove potential approval-seeking. Saying "Good job," is nice, but saying "Good job on adding that apostrophe in that contraction," is better! And to keep learning intrinsically motivating for kids, try to avoid saying the words, "I love how you..." or "I'm so proud that you..." You are already communicating how proud you are of a behavior by noticing it, but now the implication is that your students should do this for themselves and not for you. Seriously go back and watch that scope in my link. I go into deep detail in that post/video!

2. Give students physical reminders of their successes.

Now go right ahead and use that reinforcing language on some sort of tangible reward. This is a permanent way of honoring success, which kids with lower confidence levels need. I created some color and black-and-white "Happy Notes" for my students. They are FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click the picture below to be taken to get your free download. And while you're there, make sure to follow my store. I'm always posting freebies!!

Again, just make sure to be specific when you write your feedback. For kids who aren't particularly good at remembering their successes, this helps. Happy notes in my classroom are often taped to desks, used as book marks, etc. I don't ask the kids to do this. They do this on their own. The fact that right now in April, some of my third graders still have some of these notes from September is amazing to me. They must be very important to them if they still have them! I even get thank-you emails from parents, stating that these notes proudly reside on their refrigerators at home. I don't care if you write something amazing on a piece of scrap paper! I guarantee you it will be treasured--even if the student might not be ready or confident enough to admit it.


3. Celebrate all students publicly, but ask for permission.

One thing I love doing is talking about the great learning I'm seeing. If I ask the kids to turn and talk, I might share 2 or 3 memorable things I heard kids talking about. If someone struggled during class but persevered and figured out how to get to a solution, I might talk about that at the end of class during the closing portion of my lesson. This sets a positive tone in your room. You get back what you give out, so give out POSITIVITY!

Some students might feel a little embarrassed by this, so I make sure to ask permission before I share anything. If they aren't comfortable with me sharing a name, I might ask if it's OK if I share it anonymously with the class. If a student feels anxious about having their work shown to the class, maybe a few anonymous shares will build that confidence.

One way I love to celebrate student success is by including their work on the anchor charts we use in class. Chart Chums, one of my favorite blogs, discusses this often. Look at how awesome this picture is from their blog; it's a chart with student work highlighted on it! Those students just became their classmates' teachers. Click the picture below to be taken to the Chart Chums post that the picture was featured in. Click here to see another post I wrote about using charts as powerful tools in your classroom.



4. Brag to their important adults.

I sent emails home CONSTANTLY to families. I talk to special area teachers, coaches, extended day program staff, anyone who will listen. Be careful with this, because as I mentioned in tip #3, you want to make sure kids are comfortable.

As an elementary teacher, I'm usually bragging to parents. I make sure to send a positive email home once a month to every single child in my class. NO MATTER WHAT. I actually have a little spreadsheet going with the dates I send important information home. This keeps me on track. 2 or 3 emails a day with 5 sentences each takes me 5 minutes, but it makes a huge impact. All I do is use reinforcing language with the families.

"Today I noticed X did Y. X really worked hard when he did Z. He should be so proud of himself. Feel free to share with X, and have a good evening!" BOOM. Done. Now that parent is feeling awesome, that student is feeling awesome, and you are feeling awesome. OH YEAH. AWESOME ALL AROUND. WOOT WOOT.

I had a parent email me back one night I did this saying that she was in tears. She had never received a positive email from a teacher ever. This student had been in school for 5 years (pre-school to third grade), and he had NEVER gotten positive feedback sent home!? That made me so sad! But truthfully... it didn't make me surprised. I never got positive feedback home, and I was a good kid. And as a teacher, I KNOW teachers are busy. Trust me, make time for this one.

5. Praise the process as much as, if not more than, the product.

So many of your struggling learners don't get celebrated because they aren't the perfect example of perfect work. Praise their perseverance, the things they do well, the not-quite-there-but-still-made-some-progress moments. Use reinforcing language again. "Wow, Travis. In September, you would only read independently without getting up for 5 minutes. Now you've built your stamina up to 16 minutes. You've come so far!"

These kids can be ROCK STARS in your room when it comes to persevering if they have a good attitude. Maybe you can even put them on an expert board. If you teach about growth mindset in your classroom, this is a really important thing to do.



Those are my favorite 5 tips! But since you stuck around until the end, I want to share something I do for my students of serious concern in this area. If I have students with a particularly low self-esteem, I like to create a mantra for them to look at each day. I write it down, put it on their desks, and have them read it to themselves each day. One mantra might be something like, "I am special and amazing." A student might need to use, "I persevere when I have a problem because I know I can solve it." There are TONS you could create. You know what your kids need. This tool really helps.

How do you boost your students' confidence levels? Make sure to share your awesome ideas below so others can use them!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are You Making This Big Mistake In Your Classroom?

Are You Making This Big Mistake In Your Classroom? Implementing Logical Consequences with A Word On Third


You’re circulating around the room while the kids are working independently on a math project when you see that Ben and Arnav are throwing papers at each other. You calmly walk over to them and tell them to stop throwing paper and get back to work. After a moment, you help some other students to use a math strategy more effectively. You're feeling good until you see a piece of paper fall to the ground a few feet away from you. You look over at Ben and Arnav and they quickly run to their desks and get back to work. They know they’ve been caught. You tell them that you mean it this time, and that they need to get back to work. 

You help a few more students who ask you a question until it becomes hard to hear them over Ben and Arnav’s giggles. You give them “the look” from the other side of the room and they quiet down. A few minutes later, you see another piece of paper fly across the room. That’s it! You’ve had ENOUGH. 

 “BEN, ARNAV. COME HERE,” you say in your seriously-aggravated voice. “You haven’t been working on your project and you’ve been wasting time. That’s it! You’re staying in at recess to finish your work. Now go back to work now or you’ll lose another day of recess!” Ben and Arnav moan and groan and go back to their work area. You’re still not seeing a whole lot of progress with them. It looks like they are no longer distracting others, but now they are probably complaining about losing their recess. 

Feel familiar? I am guessing that it probably does. I've been in this situation plenty of times. We all have! Dealing with students who are choosing to misbehave (and even those who are not making a choice to misbehave but are still misbehaving) is TOUGH. Each situation is different, so it’s hard to figure out what to do in these kinds of situations. Responsive Classroom teachers solve these kinds of situations by implementing logical consequences rather than punishment.

So what’s wrong with the above situation? Well, for one thing, you and your students are probably both feeling incredibly frustrated. Besides the obvious, there are two things that are tremendously important when it comes to consequences, and they are missing here.

Consequences need to be related and reasonable in order to be effective. 

For a consequence to be related, students need to see the connection between their action and the resulting consequence. If they spill paint… they should clean it up. It’s related to the undesired behavior. In the above scenario, Ben and Arnav weren’t completing their work. Giving them detention is not related to the misbehavior; it is just a waste of their (and your!) time. They won’t see the connection there. If Ben and Arnav had to complete their work (which may or not be during their recess time), then the consequence becomes related! If they lose the privilege to work with a partner because they are not staying on task, the consequence is related. There are many ways to make sure a consequence is related--there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

For a consequence to be reasonable, we need to think about what fits the offense and what makes sense in the context of our classroom. If someone has spilled paint, you might have him or her clean it up rather than losing the privilege of painting for 5 days. However, if that student has already cleaned up paint once a day for the past few days, maybe they will need to lose the paint for a little longer. You know your kids. Most often, when a child realizes that their lack of care during the spill results in a loss of time while cleaning it, they will be more motivated to be more careful. When consequences are reasonable, students know you are enforcing boundaries rather than punishing needlessly or coldly.

Logical consequences aim to stop the misbehavior and restore order to the classroom. There are 3 types of logical consequences that I use in my classroom, and luckily for me, they relieve my stress while creating a happier classroom. The Responsive Classroom philosophy is a warm one which holds high expectations for all students. I’ll share the three types of logical consequences I use to shape my students into self-directed, compassionate learners. 



1. Positive Time-Out

I wrote about this in my last post, which you can read here. Historically, time out has been a punitive, rigid tool used in classrooms to stop misbehavior. It usually carries a TON shame and guilt along with it. Instead, teach time-out in a positive way. Use it as a way to help students develop their self-monitoring skills. I’ve shown you step by step how to do this in the previous blog post I mentioned above! Plenty of my students CHOOSE to take a time out (which we refer to as “taking a break” in my classroom) on their own. They use it to regain self-control and a sense of calm, and then they move on. Now THAT is a logical consequence!



2. Reparation

This one is one of my favorite consequences, because it’s simple. If students break something or damage something, the logical consequence is to fix it. Think about your own life here. What does your upbringing tell you to do in a situation? I'm thinking back to a time I borrowed a friend’s book and accidentally ripped the cover. I was horrified! I rushed right to the book store to get them a new copy because I was taught to treat other people’s belongings with care. These kinds of consequences can be their own powerful teachers for students.

Sometimes broken things aren’t always easy to fix. When a student has hurt feelings, that can be tricky. In my class, we give apologies of action that are truly sincere and feel good for both parties (the apologizer and the apologizee). You can read more about those in my 2-part posts here and here.


3. Loss of a Privilege

I don’t give out stickers in my classroom or put marbles in a marble jar. There are no behavior charts. I believe students need to do the right thing for the right reason. I’m not going to reward them for doing what they should already be doing! Does your principal reward you for teaching well? Of course, not! You might have some positive consequences coming your way if you try your best, but they are natural consequences. The consequence of teaching well is holding onto your job.

I believe it’s important to prepare my kids for the real world by sticking with this mentality. Therefore, everything in my room is a privilege. Chairs, scissors, reading partners, books… they are all privileges (and they're all privileges that almost all of my students have all the time!). When students enter my room, they have access to all of these privileges, but they can be lost. If a child consistently use the scissors in an unsafe or inappropriate way despite my explicit teaching and reminders, then that child will lose the privilege of using scissors in my classroom. Remember, though--I am NOT rigid about this, My consequence is related and reasonable, so one possible (notice there are many options here) logical consequence in this scenario is that the student loses the scissors (related) for the rest of the day (reasonable) rather than the rest of the week/month (unreasonable). Students will learn quickly that they’d rather use the scissors in an appropriate, safe way than rip up their papers by hand.


As you can see, logical consequences can be used as powerful tools to address misbehavior. When you give the consequences, though, it’s so important to have a calm, respectful voice. This is not about punishing the student—it is about helping them to learn to make better choices for themselves. Isn't that what teaching is?

And coming up with a logical consequence is NOT ALWAYS EASY! Sometimes I have a hard time finding one in the moment—especially if I’m feeling flustered. I have been known to tell students that I will need to check in with them later so that I can come up with a logical consequence. That’s OK. You can’t know everything or always be expected to come up with the perfect answer right away. Give yourself permission to take time. Then, when you have been consistent, students will feel respected.

My last little tid-bit about logical consequences is that you MUST remember to check in with students and/or watch for follow-through! If you tell a student to take a positive time-out, make sure they’re actually walking over to take that time out. Look for the follow-through so your students know you are consistent.


What type of logical consequence are you ready to try in your classroom? What is tricky for you about giving logical consequences? Is there a situation in which you simply cannot figure out a logical consequence? Share below and let's brainstorm together!

Monday, April 11, 2016

How To Transform Time Out Into A Positive Classroom Tool

How To Transform Time Out Into A Positive Classroom Tool By A Word On Third


You had a really rough morning. You almost missed the bus, and the kid sitting next to you made fun of you this morning when you sat down and everything fell out of your backpack. You hadn’t realized your backpack was unzipped this morning when you frantically ran out of the house to catch the bus. 

Walking to your classroom, you keep your head down but manage to muster up a cheerful “good morning” to your teacher as you walk in her room. You make it to math, and much to your pleasure, you’re learning about geometry and your teacher is letting you solve some pattern block puzzles. You’re thrilled—maybe your day is turning around! Your teacher is giving directions, but you just HAVE to touch those pattern blocks. You dig your hand into the bucket of blocks when you hear your teacher screech “GO TO TIME OUT. I TOLD YOU TO WAIT TO TOUCH THE BLOCKS!” 

Now you’ve gone and done it! You see your classmates all turn around to look at you. You feel their eyes burning into you while you hang your head. Avoiding their eyes, you get up and do the walk of shame all the way to the time out chair while your hear some of your classmates whispering about you...



If you were ever sent to time out as a student, you can probably relate to this experience. Maybe you’ve even seen it happen in some of the classrooms, summer camps, or other childcare programs you’ve worked in. Maybe it has even happened in your own classroom!

What would you say if I told you that my students have a WILDLY different time out experience? What if I told you that some of my students go to time out by choice?


Time out is positive in my classroom, and it can be positive in yours too. Watch my quick scope below to see how I introduce and use time out in my classroom. You won't be sorry you caught it, and neither will your kids! 


It's close to the end of the year, but I still highly recommend you use this starting tomorrow! You don't need much time to introduce it, and it makes a world of difference. In fact, even if you do something similar (or something almost identical!), it's not a bad idea to model this a few times throughout the year. Connect your new time out (or whatever you decide to call it) to your classroom rules and talk about how this can help your students build their level of self-control.

Remember, the purpose of time out is to help a child calm down. However, it's not always the most appropriate consequence for every situation. Sometimes you might want to try having students give an apology of action, which I wrote about here and here. Time out won't work for every student, but it works for most students most of the time. Kindergarteners and fifth graders can do this with ease. I'd venture middle schoolers could probably do something similar (but maybe more age appropriate) as well. It's all about teaching students to self-monitor and self-regulate. 

How might you change your time out procedures? Do you use one at all? If not, are you considering trying it in a positive way? Comment below!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

3 Easy Ways To Save PRECIOUS Instructional Time

3 Easy Ways To Save PRECIOUS Instructional Time - A Word On Third


Hi, Teachers!

Have you ever struggled to fit in the things you love because you feel like you don't have enough time during the day? Whether it be fitting in a read aloud, a closing circle at the end of the day, or 15 minutes of choice time, I'm going to share my best 3 ways to fit time into your day. Making time isn't too hard to do with a little creative thinking and schedule-tweaking on your part!

I'm going to share my favorite 3 ways to add time into your day, and some may really surprise you!

1. Stop assigning morning work.

This is the best thing I started doing for myself. Why do it? Do you want to reinforce math? Great--you can still do a math warm up at math time. Want to keep kids busy until everyone is ready? That's OK, you can have them do something until everyone has arrived and unpacked for the day. Morning work ends up taking a ton of time. The kids need to do it, then you probably review it with them, and then sometimes you end up grading it too! THAT'S TOO MUCH TIME!!! Give meaningful morning work if you need the kids to do something while everyone arrives. Some options are:

  • Sorting through word study words
  • Reading independently or with a partner
  • Performing class jobs (see tip #2)
  • Math Labs (pattern block puzzles, riddles, etc)
Did you notice a pattern? All 4 of those options can be stopped immediately. That's the best part about giving up on assigning traditional morning work. There's nothing they need to "complete" when you let this go. Now, I totally appreciate that you want kids engaged until everyone is ready, but all you have to do now is give your quiet signal, give your direction, and then kids can transition to whatever it is you want to do. I know a lot of teachers who lose 10-15 minutes each day on morning work. That's a minimum of 1,800 minutes per year! THAT'S 30 HOURS!! That's almost a whole week of school!! 

Some teachers get even more creative with this. Maybe the kids start reader's workshop as soon as they come in. That might look like starting your reading block with a little independent reading, pausing to say good morning and fit in your mini-lesson, and then going back to independent reading. Personally, I don't think that method would work for me right now because 1--the morning is a great time for my kids to check in with each other and they need to be social, and 2--I have a special first period. But get creative and find what works for you!


2. Teach responsibility through giving students class jobs.

I've written about the jobs I assign to students here. Most of you probably assign students class jobs, but this is a tool which I feel is not utilized to it's full potential all of the time. I'm no exception to this rule! I am constantly figuring out new things my kids can do. Every year (and during the year sometimes!) I re-vamp my class jobs or add job descriptions to specific jobs in my room. There's more to this than you might realize though...

3 Easy Ways To Save PRECIOUS Instructional Time - A Word On Third

Guess who made that bulletin board? I made it once... two years ago. In the fall. Each time it changes, my kids are the ones making it! I HIGHLY recommend you click here or click the image above to see how to get kids in charge of bulletin boards. There are so many things your kids can do other than bulletin boards. With a little advance teaching on your part, kids should be checking homework (teach them what to look for), organizing your library, changing the calendar and schedule (my kids look at my lesson plans and update the schedule for the next day), and more. There are SO many things you can delegate!! That clears up time for you! 

But... sometimes spending time on class jobs can be tough, right?

NOT ANYMORE! Check out my post about how I use Find It & Fix It. My room is clean within 60 seconds. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I'm not exaggerating. Read more about that in my post with my best tricks for a clean classroom.


3. Take time out for brain breaks.

Whether you choose to use Responsive Classroom Energizers, some tried and true brain breaks you already know, or GoNoodle, it is SO important that you get your kids moving around. Research shows that kids should be moving around every ten minutes.

Now, you are probably thinking... How on earth you can GAIN time in your classroom by spending it moving around!?!?! You're crazy, Marla!! Maybe your gut is even telling you... This suggestion is a waste of my time! Try to ignore that little voice in your head and hear me out.

Kids who move around and get their energy out are MORE engaged. When your kids are engaged, you have to stop less during lessons. Stopping less = more time! This can be something you do during transition periods, and it will motivate kids to transition more quickly. Some brain breaks only take 30 seconds to do! Let's be real... 30 seconds of an intense wiggle sesh are totally worth 10 minutes of engagement. Responsive Classroom says that kids need "BSF" -- belonging, significance, and fun. Brain breaks are FUN! If kids don't get enough fun in their day, they make their own fun (like poking their friends or chatting during your mini-lesson). This is exactly the kind of thing you NEED to do every day to make sure your kids are having fun.

My goal is usually to fit in 5 GoNoodle brain breaks a day. I do not always use GoNoodle. I have a lot of Energizers I do on my own! But doing this absolutely gives me more time in my day. My first year of teaching, I did none of these. When I found out about these, it blew my mind how much of a difference it made. Check out GoNoodle for free by clicking below!


I could NOT love GoNoodle any more if I tried. I recommend checking out Koo Koo Kangaro, Maximo, and the Sports/Run With Me channels. When I'm looking for something quick, my kids like "Run Like The Kitty." You can read a blog post about GoNoodle for beginners here.

You can also check out my community building brain breaks by clicking the picture below. This is a great way to get kids moving. You can spend 3-5 minutes on these 1 or 2 times a week, and it makes a big difference. Kids get a chance to be social, get moving, and get energized. If you get those glazed-over looks while you're teaching, pull this one out. It's bound to wake kids up! I've linked you to the free version. If you decide you like it, you can get a full version of no-prep bingo boards good for the whole year by clicking on the link in the product description in this freebie.


So those are my three tips for you! Which do you think you're going to try first? Comment below!

Monday, April 4, 2016

How To Use YouTube Safely And Effectively In The Classroom

How To Use YouTube Safely And Effectively In The Classroom - A Word On Third

Hi, Teachers! 

Today is a big day for me. It's my first day back after spring break, my first day of Teacher Entrepreneur School, and my last day before standardized testing begins! That means my Teacher Self-Care Challenge is officially over, but I still want you to try the challenge if you haven't yet. Even if your spring break is over too, I know it will benefit you.

Do you guys use YouTube in your classroom? I LOVE all of the resources on YouTube, but I DON'T LOVE all the ads and video suggestions that pop up on the screen when I'm trying to use it! I don't need commercials for lotion and beer popping up on screen when I'm trying to teach my kids. I also don't need them to see video recommendations on the side that might not be appropriate for school. 

Would you use YouTube more often if I told you that I have the perfect solution for this problem? I hope so! YouTube is FULL of informational videos, relaxing music, etc. Check out my short scope on this topic below. By using the site safeshare.tv, you can really easily use youtube videos without worrying about weird ads popping up. That site makes your content safe! I highly recommend using it. Once you've added a website to safeshare, you can bookmark it and have it forever. I also shared my favorite, fun way to use YouTube on a regular basis in my classroom that makes our classroom more joyful! Check out my short, 5 minute scope below.