Monday, September 18, 2017

Make Sure You Don't Miss My 2017 Classroom Reveal

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

Make Sure You Don't Miss My 2017 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

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

A Word On Third's 2017-2018 Classroom Reveal

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Warning: NEVER Buy These Easy, Amazing Items!

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


Ok, I admit it: my post title is dripping with sarcasm, but it's because the idea behind today's post is really simple, but we complicate it often. If you need something convenient, but you can make it yourself, JUST. BUY. IT.

You have so much to get done, and so little time to get it done. You have to teach, you have to eat, you have to sleep, you should exercise, you'd probably like time to spend with your family, hobbies might be nice... SO MANY THINGS exist to make this easier for you. I find that because it's an extra few bucks, we take the harder route. But what are you going to miss more--your time or your money? I'm guessing it's your time, but can actually do a lot of this in a really affordable way.

I'm not suggesting that you constantly treat yo self and buy every expensive thing in sight all the time (shout out to Parks & Rec). However, if you want to take care of yourself and your sanity, these are some great examples of things you can, should, and deserve to buy that you can definitely afford on your teacher-salary:

  • Pre-cut or pre-washed veggies/fruit
    especially if it means you won't make that healthy teacher fuel if you have to cut/wash it, which will make you spend double on buying lunch anyway.
  • That awesome product on TeachersPayTeachers you've been eyeing
    but you haven't purchased it yet because you know you can make it if you spend a lot of time on it... YOUR TIME IS WORTH IT.
  • Some cute decor piece on Etsy that you saw
    because making one will take longer (and it might actually be more expensive after you buy all the supplies anyway).
  • Flair pens
    because even though they aren't that cheap for what they are, they don't cost a ton and they make you SO. DARN. HAPPY. (Ok, maybe I am suggesting a Parks & Rec Treat Yo Self here, but it's still warranted.)
  • Someone to clean your house for you
    for an hour or two every few weeks so that you don't go crazy and get to spend more time with your family.
  • Spotify Premium or Pandora so you can be happy in your classroom when you're working alone after the kids have left for the day.
I was raised with a mentality that I should not buy these kinds of things because they were not the best use of money, and I have so many teacher friends that feel the same way. Just look at the way we hoard things in our classrooms, hoping they will come in handy someday so we won't have to buy it. The truth is, while I'm still a smart spender, the more things like this I buy, the happier I end up being. I don't need to design the most adorable schedule cards ever, because they are available on TeachersPayTeachers. OH WAIT, THE MOST ADORABLE ONES ARE FREE. (YASSS Cara Carroll).

Since we have a tendency to make things harder for ourselves, especially when we're going back to school, and I am here to provide you with your reminder that you are awesome, and you deserve to cut yourself some slack. So I want to know, what little things did you tell yourself you shouldn't buy? What have you started doing to make your life a little easier?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How To Call Out Sick Without Feeling Guilty Or Overwhelmed

You know what DOESN'T make teachers happy? When they want to call out sick, but they have to go into school to set up sub plans at 6 AM. At that rate, isn't it easier to just get through the normal day since you'll be there anyway? NO. NO IT'S NOT. Today I'm going to help you get super happy by helping you to set up no-prep sub plans before the school year even starts. So many teachers feel negatively for one reason or another when calling out sick, but it's just not appropriate for several reasons. You can't do your best teaching when you feel like crap, and you'll probably be sicker for longer than you would if you just took that one day off in the first place.

Pre-made, no-prep, high quality sub plans for free.

I set up sub plans that don't require me to be present, let my students practice valuable skills and don't cost anything. You don't have to pay for some on Teachers Pay Teachers. These sub plans are free. I set them up before the school year even starts, and you can too.

First, get a folder.

Label it "Sub Plans" super clearly, put it in a super obvious place, and tell a few colleagues where it is so they can pull it out and put it on your desk when you text them because you feel like you have the plague. Inside of this folder, make sure to put:
  • Your class list (updated if you get new students)
  • Emergency drill information
  • A copy of your schedule
  • A page about your rules, routines, and classroom management tips that you know will help your substitute teacher.
  • Sub plans for each day of the week
  • Housekeeping slips (like attendance or lunch slips)
  • Morning work materials (I'll discuss that in the next part).
  • A few books they can read in case an activity is finished early.
  • Any other relevant information for your class

Next, set up for your morning.

Usually, I have my students look at their morning work and check in on the smart board when I'm in school. All I do is write the same stuff they would usually do on a few big pieces of construction paper. I put a sticky note on those papers telling the sub to tape the papers to the smart board and to save them for next time. I do the same thing with the morning message. Every day I'm absent, the morning message is the same. It usually sounds something like this:
Dear Team,
Today you will have a guest teacher. I am counting on you to be helpful and responsible. How can you take care of your learning and the guest teacher while I am away? Be ready to share your idea at Morning Meeting today. I can't wait to be back!
 Love, Your Teacher
That's it. If you are a big fan of morning work, keep it super simple. I'm not, so I just give my kids a little extra reader's or writer's workshop time. You could also have kids work on unfinished work.

Now write your sub plans.

Here's what I do for each subject.
  • Morning Meeting- For the greeting, have the kids go around the circle and say their name and favorite subject. Then have the group say good morning to that kid. This gives the sub a little heads up about who each kid in your class is. For the share, have the kids share how they will take care of their learning and the guest teacher while you are gone (just like the Morning Message said), for the activity, have a student lead an activity you've taught early in the year. Make it a quick one with no prep needed. You can snag some ideas for activities here. Then have the class read the message together. Done! Easy peasy.
  • Reading & Writing- I give the kids independent reading or writing time. Because I am a workshop teacher, we just have more time to work on what we've already been working on. I call this a "marathon day" (a chance to practice strategies they love and haven't gotten to work on much, or a chance to work on something they haven't finished yet). Here's exactly what I write in my sub plans:
    Tell the kids they will be having a marathon period in reading, which means they will get extra time to practice what they’ve been doing in class. Have them discuss what reader’s workshop should look and sound like. 
    Next have them think about what strategy they will practice today to push their reading further and why. They can look at the charts in the room to help them make decisions. Have the kids turn and talk to their partner to tell them their choice and why. Share out some answers. 
    Have the kids read independently. Circulate and check in with kids if they need help. Ask them what their goal is, how they’re reaching it, and to prove that they are reaching it. This will help them be more productive. 
    During the last 2 or 3 minutes, have kids share what their goal was and how they reached it. 
  • Math- This one is simple! I have the kids start by finishing any unfinished math work, and then they play independent or partner math games. These are games they already know how to play. Many of them are enrichment games they play when they finish their math work. It's a great time for the kids to review skills you may or may not be learning about at the time. I recommend giving 2-4 options to keep things simple. I also leave a note for my substitute that if students aren't focusing with their partner, they lose the privilege of working with a partner and need to work on an independent math game.
  • Science or Social Studies- In my class, we have a Time For Kids subscription. I often send it home to read for homework (since reading is most of the homework I give anyway), but I keep a few in my sub folder. The kids can read with a partner or independently. The teacher's manual has some worksheets that I ask the sub to copy for early finishers. You can also have the sub read a book on a topic of study you are learning about. If that's the case, I recommend adding books to your sub folder regularly.
  • Word Study- Have students play some games independently or sort their words. What do you usually do? That's what you should do now.
Did you notice how I did not invent the wheel here? I did end up changing my lesson plans as the year went by to add or remove certain math games, but that's pretty much it. If you have any free periods, just have the sub read a book or have students work on unfinished work. Those will probably be more useful than any fancy schmancy game you could print out and leave for the kids anyway.

Now create your sub plans by day.

So you've already done the hard part--you've figured out what should be taught during each subject. Most teachers have a different schedule each day, so now write each sub plan according to day, making sure to add in your specials. Clearly mark each day so your sub knows which papers to pull out of the folder.

If you really want your sub to thank you, include a few brain breaks the kids can play between periods. I include 2 or 3 games the students can play to get the wiggles out, and I always leave the names of a few students who can lead the games. I also leave 1 or 2 calming brain breaks. I write these right into my plans. If your sub will have access to a computer, you can even give them the log-in information for your GoNoodle account. Your sub will experience less negative behaviors when you do this.

When you do this, you'll be able to take your sick day knowing that you have quality plans for your students. YOU CAN SLEEP IN WHEN YOUR BODY NEEDS IT. I cannot believe I used to go to school at 6 or 7 to set up my room for the sub. I would never in a million years ever do that again, and I hope you don't either.

So how do you want to spread the teacher happiness this week? Link up below! All you need to do is write a short blog post with your teacher tip(s), include the above graphic linking back to this post, and comment on at least one other blogger's post. If you don't have a blog, please participate by adding your tip in a comment below!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How To Make Your Conferring Instruction More Effective

Good teachers collect and use data effectively, and that's the role conferring plays in the reader's or writer's workshop. Use these tips to keep your conferences and strategy groups running smoothly and effectively.

How To Confer Efficiently and Create a Conferring Toolkit by A Word On Third

Keep it simple.

The best conferences and strategy groups follow a predictable formula, and they are quick and short!! We have a tendency to over-talk even though students should be doing the majority of the talking and work. Here's the typical formula for a conference or small strategy group:
Research: 1-2 minutes, Discuss goals, strengths, and challenges with the student and listen to him/her read. Ask some meaning-based questions. Use what you learn to teach. End with a compliment. *This step is only needed in a conference--in a strategy group, you already know what you'll be teaching based on data you've collected! 
Connection: ~20 seconds, Grab the students' attention.
Teaching Point: ~20 seconds, Name exactly what you will teach.
Teach: ~2 minutes, Model the strategy (or use another method, like a mini-inquiry).
Active Engagement: ~1 minutes, Let the students try the skill.
Link: 20 seconds, Send the students off with an ending thought about the skill they learned.
Strategy groups need to be short and pointed so that you can fit as many as you need into your week. Aim for 5 (maybe 7 minutes for a small group) and no more. Shoot to meet with each student at least once per week. Getting the timing down will be an adjustment. Use a stopwatch if you need to. Click the picture below to be taken to a great one online.

Provide students with tangible tools.

I like to teach with a quickly drawn anchor chart on a piece of printer paper. It helps to have a visual aid, and creating the charts can even clarify how I'll teach each skill in my mind. Students need to hear and see the teaching point over and over again. Notice how the example I made below is super clear.
How To Confer Efficiently and Create a Conferring Toolkit by A Word On Third

It's also critical that students have a piece of tangible evidence of learning. Send them off with a smaller version of your anchor chart to glue into a notebook or keep with them while they work. Even jotting the teaching point on a post-it note can be a big help for keeping students mindful of the skills they are practicing.

Create a toolkit to save time.

Keeping a pencil pocket full of post-it notes, writing utensils, and other materials you use during conferences is a time-saver! Put that in your toolkit so you always have it.

How To Make Your Conferring Instruction More Effective by A Word On Third

When you know the students and your curriculum, you can predict the majority of the skills you will need to teach. When you create the tangible tools you will use during conferences--whether it's in the moment or ahead of time--SAVE THEM! It takes so much time and work to do this--if you don't save it, you're wasting instructional or planning time. You can use them several times throughout the year and then over again in future years. I will admit that this does take some time, but it's totally worth it when you see your student's skills improving daily. So what if it takes you a few years to develop your personal toolkit?

If you're not up for the hard work it takes to create your own toolkit, or you want to experiment with one before committing, I recommend checking mine out. I created a toolkit to help you launch reader's workshop effectively. You can use it to create the reader's workshop culture you wish to see in your room and teach into effective reading behaviors, partnership work, and comprehension strategies. It's also $10.00 in my store for today only! Click here or on the picture below to check it out, and make sure to download the free preview with some goodies in there for you.

If you happen to read this a day late and miss the discount, you can also enter a giveaway on my Instagram account to win it for free along with a $10.00 TeachersPayTeachers gift card. Make sure to go enter!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How To Drastically Reduce Your Planning Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How To Be A Happier Teacher Immediately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

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

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

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

If you're a non-blogging reader... 

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

If you're a blogger...

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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

4 Helpful Books You Need To Read This Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

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

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

1. My 3 Best Secrets For Finishing Report Cards Quickly

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

2. How To Introduce Supplies and Routines Easily And Effectively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Teachers: Are You Exploiting This Powerful Language Skill?

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

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

All effective language shares these qualities:

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

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

Here's what makes reinforcing language special:

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

1 Activity That Will Revive Your Morning Meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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