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!!

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!

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??