6 Ways To Ease Your Students' Test Anxiety

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

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

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

1. Meditate.

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

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

2. Be honest.

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

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

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

3. Model being calm.

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

4. Celebrate.

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

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

A post shared by Marla Savage (@awordonthird) on

5. Use positive affirmations.

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

6. Communicate with parents.

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

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

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

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

Download This Free Learning Progression Before You Forget!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Teacher Routines You Need To Have A Smooth Day

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

3 Teacher Routines You Need To Have A Smooth Day

1. Prepare for the next morning before you leave.

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

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

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

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

2. Use your prep periods wisely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Teach a rock-solid quiet signal.

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

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

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

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

4 Quick Morning Meeting Activities Your Students Will Love

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

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

1. Questions & Clues

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

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

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

2. Silly Sentences

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

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

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

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

3. People To People

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

4. Bingo Mix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1 Amazing, Easy Trick To Quickly Help Your Reluctant Writers

If you teach writing, chances are you've had more than a few kids who are reluctant writers. I always have a handful every single year. You know... the kids who go to the bathroom, get a drink, get a tissue, sharpen their pencils, and try to share personal stories with you... all during that short writing period! Working with reluctant writers is one of my favorite challenges of teaching. This tip changed everything for my writers and me.

1 Amazing, Easy Trick To Quickly Help Your Reluctant Writers

All you need to do is use a timer to break the writing process into small, more manageable chunks. Check in with each child when you set the timer and make a plan for what he or she will do during the allotted time. When the timer goes off, come back and check in with the child. Repeat the process.

Start with small increments of time and work your way up. Once this is in place for a week or so, it will be easy to check in with your other writers who don't need this support. When I start doing this with my classes, I set the timer and immediately call a strategy group to the carpet. Then two things might happen:

  1. I finish the strategy group and check back in with the writer when I'm done, or more realistically... 
  2. I check back in with that writer when my strategy group kids are doing their active engagement/independent practice.
Yes, it's a bit of a balancing act, but so is everything else about teaching!

The kind of timer you use is really important. I like to use Time Timers because the amount of time left until the buzzer goes off is NOT being displayed by the second. That is really distracting and overwhelming for someone who is already a reluctant writer. However, kids can still budget their time appropriately because they have a rough idea of how much time is left.

I always have at least 4 or 5 of these timers for my students to use. If you want a Time Timer, you can click the picture above to check one out on Amazon. (This is not an affiliate link or sponsored post, by the way. I just really like Time Timers.) Ask your guidance counselor or school psychologist if they have one you can borrow. I guarantee after a week, you'll see a difference if you're consistent.

Here's what the breakdown of what a writer's independent writing portion of a lesson might look like in your classroom during a narrative writing unit.

  • 10 minutes - Revise all pages by adding dialogue and using words other than "said"
  • 10 minutes - Revise all pages by adding actions
  • 10 minutes - Revise all pages by using the "Show, Don't Tell" strategy
Usually my reluctant writers get pulled for strategy groups often, so we'll incorporate those strategies into each chunk of time. Sometimes writers will finish before the timer goes off, and other times they will need a little more time. If they're on task the whole time, that's perfectly OK.

The important thing to do is to involve your writer in the decision making process. Don't make all the choices for them. Ask them what they think they need to accomplish in the designated amount of time. If you don't agree with the amount they should get done, you can adjust, but it's awesome if you can stick with the writing strategy they choose to work on.

If you want to try this tomorrow but you know you don't have a Time Timer, try using this online stopwatch and projecting it or setting it up on any devices your students can use. I just make the window small and hide the numbers counting the seconds. You will love how independent this makes your students while still holding them accountable!

If you want to create a buzz around writing, you might want to also check out this writing activity that I do in my class every week. Kids write a class news report to share what they are learning in class with their families. This can be as fancy or simple as you want it to be: editing is not a necessity! This has everything you need to film from start to finish. You can do it during lunch or pull kids to work on this during writing.

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How To Make Time For Self-Care When You're An Exhausted Teacher

Have you ever noticed that every month or so, teachers will often say to each other, "It's that time of year again! I'm exhausted!" and nod in agreement? While I agree the demands on us are high--we can't just sit there and let ourselves reach exhaustion every few weeks. It's not sustainable.

You can't pour from an empty cup. If you don't take care of yourself, nobody else will. Make yourself a priority.

If you're busy and you feel like "you don't have time" for anything extra, then self-care is extra important for you in particular! These are my secrets to help you make time for yourself... and to fit it in without slacking on all of your other demands. Or... you know... going crazy!

How To Make Time For Self-Care When You're An Exhausted Teacher by A Word On Third

1. Double dip.

I practice this every day. If there's something I can do that will make me happier or healthier, I pair it with something else.

I need to exercise, and I need to play with my dogs daily. That means that I go for a run and take my dogs with me. Now I've accomplished both at the same time. 

I like to read personal development books. I listen to a podcast or audiobook while I cook, clean, or drive to work. It makes my chores more enjoyable.

I need to pack my lunches for the week. Can I make larger dinners and pack the leftovers for lunch when I'm cleaning up afterwards?

This is all about working smarter, not harder. When you say, "I don't have time," it's a hint that you might not be using your time as efficiently as possible. There are endless resources to get better with this.

2. Take short breaks.

It might not feel easy to accomplish all of the time, but scheduling breaks is scientifically proven to help you be more productive. This article shows how taking breaks will help you. After all, you give your kids brain breaks; you need them too! All you really need to do is set aside 3 to 5 minutes to reap the benefits. 

I recommend taking your break at the beginning of your prep and lunch periods. Even if you feel like you just have to finish something first, scheduling your break before doing anything else will help you be more productive later. It also ensures you fit your break in. How many times have you said to yourself that you would eat your lunch as soon as you finished making copies and grading those papers only to realize you didn't get to eat your lunch. You have to make this a priority, remember?

How you take your breaks is up to you, but it's really important that you take them during the school day. You might decide to do a quick YouTube exercise or yoga video to get your blood pumping and wake your brain and body up. You might also do a quick breathing exercise or meditation. You can even just decide to walk around your school once or twice. Maybe you can even walk outside if the weather is nice! Once in a while, I open up a book that I am reading strictly for pleasure during lunch. Even if I only read it for 5 minutes, it's really nice!!

3. Make an effort to include one sweet thing in each day.

Oddly enough, I feel like this is the easiest item on this list to accomplish, but it's often the first one to be neglected. This can be literally anything, and only takes a few seconds. Here are some things that make the cut on my list:
  • Wear extra fluffy socks
  • Bring a pair of slippers to work for after your students leave.
  • Pack your favorite snack.
  • Play your favorite songs over your projector speakers once the kids leave.
  • Play a nature video in the background during your lunch and prep periods.
  • Make your favorite cup of tea.
  • Put your favorite scent in your essential oil diffuser.
  • Put your phone down and pay attention while you snuggle your dog.
  • Give yourself a compliment.
  • Tidy up a space you spend time in often until you're happy with it.
  • Sing to your favorite upbeat song on your drive home.
  • Call someone you love.
Make a list that makes you happy and stick with it! I'm sure some of the stuff on my list would be annoying to you, so don't pick anything that would bother you.

4. Practice the 80-20 rule.

Scientists say that our most important tasks, which tend to take up 20 percent of our time, tend to yield 80% of our results. That means we need to spend some time thinking about our priorities.

What does that mean for an exhausted teacher? It means you don't have to make that font pretty. You don't have to put that copy on the prettiest colored paper when you can't find it. You don't have to use your prettiest hand lettering on your anchor charts. 

Those kinds of things aren't going to lead to the most significant learning outcomes. If you're exhausted, you need to ask yourself what you value most. Maybe you can come back to those other nice things when you aren't exhausted again.

Give yourself permission to be human and to prioritize well for you. Let some things go.

5. Implement basic healthy habits one at a time.

Being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy is really important, but it's not easy to get started all of the time. How many of us have set New Year's Resolutions and given up on them a few weeks or months later? It's because we're busy and we've bitten off more than we can chew.

Let's say I decide to get more sleep. Some people say they will get 8 hours of sleep per night, but they fail at it over and over again. That's because you're really not changing one habit at a time; you're changing many! You have to get to bed earlier, do different before-bed rituals (like washing your face or packing your lunch) earlier, stop binging on Netflix when you are supposed to be going to bed, put your kids to bed earlier, etc. That's a lot of different habits just to get more sleep! The take away here is that you need to do those things one at a time if you want the habit to stick.

If you want to drink more water each day, that is simple enough that you probably can just buy a bigger water bottle and plan to drink 2 of them during your work day. However, you can't plan to drink more water, eat healthier, meal prep, and exercise all at once if you haven't gradually implemented those habits into your life. Therefore, that means you should focus on implementing one of these tips first rather than trying all give at once.

These tips have really helped me to practice self-care. Double-dipping helps me in particular. I regularly make extra servings of a weekend lunch so I have lunches for the week. What's the tip that you are going to try? Comment below and let me know how you're going to implement it!

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You Need This Easy Confidence Builder In Your Class!

It's hard to get your students to accomplish things as a class and as individuals if they don't feel confident. Let's be real--LIFE in general is hard when you're not confident. While building our student's confidence isn't 100% within our control, we can still do a lot to help. Incorporating positive self-talk is my favorite way of helping students to become more confident.

Set up a positive affirmation as a password to build confidence! - By A Word On Third

Set up a password that your students must say before entering the room.

No exceptions, it needs to be said. It's pretty simple, right? It's a fabulous way to get kids to enter the room and say something positive about themselves. All I did was write "password of the day" on top of a piece of paper and laminate it. Because it's laminated, you can write on it with dry-erase marker and easily change the affirmation whenever you want. Then I taped it up outside of my door. 

Set up a positive affirmation as a password to build confidence! - By A Word On Third

I like to keep my affirmations for about a week to really help solidify that affirmation in each of my students' minds. It's so easy to find a ton of positive affirmations with a quick Pinterest or Google search. You might also use growth mindset beliefs too!

Another reason I LOVE having kids say this before entering the room is it gives me a chance to see each kid one-on-one and really take the pulse of the class and each student every single day. I know who is having a rough morning before they even enter. You can even use these affirmations as passwords OUT the door at the end of the day too!

Set up a positive affirmation as a password to build confidence! - By A Word On Third

My kids will sometimes even recite their affirmations to themselves after they are already inside of the room. Don't get me wrong-it's not EVERY kid doing that-but it's really nice to see that it's helping some of my students.

I've seen some teachers do this with academic concepts too. To enter a room, you might write the equation "5 x 4" on the board and kids need to say "20" to enter. Students might also need to read a sight word. I happen to like going the affirmation route better because it puts the emphasis on feeling good and building confidence rather than being wrong or right.

If you want to try this tomorrow but you know you won't get to run to a laminator, grab some post-its and get writing! You can also just tape over a piece of paper with packing tape and "laminate" your paper that way! What will your first affirmation be for your students? Comment below!

By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right. Also, make sure to follow me on Instagram for more classroom ideas! There's a giveaway going on right now that you won't want to miss out on. Go enter!

I'm really grateful for the new friendships I've gained and great ideas I've gotten from this IG teacher community. I love bring able to take the inspiration back to my classroom where it counts. I want to say thank you, so I'm hosting a giveaway! πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹To enter, you must: πŸ¦‹ Like this post. πŸ¦‹ Make sure you're following me @awordonthird. πŸ¦‹ Tag a teacher bestie and tell them why you are grateful for them in the comments. πŸ¦‹ Extra entries go to pals who share this post in their IG story, on their IG feed. πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹πŸ¦‹ That's it! Winner will be announced in a few days. I'm grateful for you guys because you make me feel inspired when I'm frustrated. 😊 #teachersfollowteachers #iteach #teachertribe #kindergarten #firstgrade #secondgrade #thirdgrade #fourthgrade #fifthgrade #elementaryschool #teacherlife #teachergiveaways #teachergiveaway #giveaway #teacherlife #teacherthings #teachersrock #teaching #education #school #flexibleseating
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4 Unique Ways To Get Your Student's Attention

Getting your students' attention can be challenging sometimes. I truly believe that when I have a difficult time getting my class' attention, it's because I haven't been consistent enough. With that being said, here are a few tricks to help you get your students' attention... and have them listening to you.

4 Unique Ways To Get Your Student's Attention

1. Instead of speaking, type your directions.

Because I am blessed with a projector and smart board in my classroom, sometimes I get to type my directions. This works out to my advantage, because typing forces me to be more succinct. I'm also a quick typer, so my kids get their directions quickly. This forces them to read and process the directions before following them. Extra reading practice + voice saving tactics = teacher win! I got this idea from the amazing Mr. D, who is absolutely AMAZING! Do you follow him on Instagram? You must!!

2. Use a magic word.

When I want students to listen to a whole set of directions, I make sure to say, "When I say go..." or, "When I say the magic word, which is _______..." before adding any other direction. I like to give a small but dramatic pause after saying the magic word too.

You can keep one magic word all year (like "GO"), or you might change it up every day/week/month. It can be a vocabulary word or a nonsense word. The big thing here is that you tell kids when they will be released to follow your direction BEFORE you give it.

3. Stand higher than usual.

Whether you decide to stand on a chair, on a table, or on a classroom stage, adding some extra inches to your stature can be a powerful tool. Just do it safely! If you fall, it's NOT on me, got it!?

Okay, seriously, though... when my students are in the middle of working and I realize I need to make an adjustment, I stand up on something a little higher than my usual height and say, "Can I have your attention please?" Once everyone is looking, I can say the direction. Then it's off the chair as usual. I don't recommend abusing this one, because it will lose its novelty quickly if you do.

4. Be consistent and use modeling.

Really, what it comes down to is modeling. If we regularly model our quiet signals (after a break, after a long weekend, before or after a sub comes, when it's a full moon and Valentine's Day and the 100th Day of school all at the same time...), we are setting our kids up for success.  Modeling isn't enough for the students though; we need to regularly model and practice those signals with our students. Read more about how to do that here.

I hope these ideas help you snag your class' attention quickly! I know how this time of year can drag on, but you've got this! 

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4 Posts That Will Help You Improve Your Morning Messages

Often times, teachers overlook the value that the Morning Message component of a Morning Meeting can have! It's the last part of the meeting, so it is the segue between meeting and the rest of your day. This makes it such a powerful time! Use it to your benefit.

Here are 4 posts with ideas to help you make the most of your morning messages.

1. How To Best Fit Math Into Morning Meetings

If you're feeling like the content areas aren't always involved in your morning meetings as much as you'd like them to be, starting with math is a good idea. Click here or the picture below for some more ideas.

2. How To Quickly Make Morning Messages SENSATIONAL!

My favorite ideas from this post are sharing the pen or reading in different ways. It's so easy, and it takes little to no prep. POOF! Morning message OWNED. Click here or on the picture below to read more.

3. How To Put The Spotlight On Content In Morning Meeting

You'll actually learn some tips for all 4 components of morning meeting on this post! Some ideas are repeated from the last post, but this is a quick, easy read, so I wanted to include it. Plus, I liked giving you extra goodies for greetings, sharing, and activities. Click here or on the picture to read more.

4. How To Craft Fun & Effective Morning Messages

Number 2 is a life saver--especially on crazy days! Read more by clicking here or on the picture below.

I hope these ideas help you use your morning messages to the best of your ability! By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, we'd love to have you! Join our community by signing up in the box right under my bio to the right.

5 Greetings That Will Make Morning Meeting More Exciting

Morning Meeting is easily my favorite time of day. It's when I get to spend the most time enjoying my kids as people rather than as students. Typically, it should be formatted as follows: greeting, share, activity, morning message. It's important that you and your students don't get bored with Morning Meetings; they set the tone for your entire day!

Here are 5 greetings you can use to add some life back into your Morning Meetings and prevent them from feeling stale.

5 Greetings That Will Make Morning Meeting More Exciting

Floppy Fish Greeting
Step 1: The class starts by standing up in a circle. One student stands in the middle of the circle, makes eye contact with another student, and “reels them in” by acting like they have a fishing pole. The student they “reel in” swims over like a fish.
Step 2: The students greet each other in the center of the circle.
Step 3: The student who was acting like the fish becomes the next student reeling in a new student to greet. The last person to be greeted should greet the first person who stood in the middle of the circle.

Sight Word Greeting
Give students a name tag, label, or index card with a sight word written on it. You could even use the words from your actual word wall if they are removable. Have students greet each other using their sight words instead of their names. Want to put a different spin on it? Use vocabulary words or science/social studies words too.

Shoe Greeting
Students take off one shoe, put it in the center of the circle, and take someone else’s shoe. Students greet each other until they find their new shoe’s owner and find their own shoe.

Skip Counting Greeting
Students skip count by a certain number and greet the student that many people away from them. I like to have students high-5 the students in between that they don’t get to greet. This is particularly useful if you have students who like to greet the same classmates every day.

Skip Die Greeting
Students roll a die and skip that number of people in the circle. For example, if you roll a 4, you skip 4 people and greet the 5th person. I like to have students high five the students they skip. The last person to go greets the first person.

I hope you enjoy these 5 greetings! I think Floppy Fish is my current favorite. What's yours? Comment below!

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Why You Need To Use Redirecting Language Every Day

Redirecting language is a powerful tool that can help stop misbehaviors really quickly and prevent them from getting you off track while you teach. Changing my language to incorporate more effective redirecting language was challenging for me, but it has paid off tremendously.

Using redirecting language allows me to spend a significantly smaller amount of time responding to misbehavior than I used to.

Redirecting language is a powerful tool that can help stop misbehaviors really quickly and prevent them from getting you off track while you teach.

According to Responsive Classroom, "keeping teacher language simple and brief when redirecting behavior is the right choice." Your first priority needs to be getting control of your room. You can always check in with individual students later at a more convenient time to discuss expectations.

Your redirecting language can probably use some tweaks if...

  • you've felt like your students have tuned out while you've been talking (maybe the Charlie Brown teacher comes to mind)
  • you feel mean when you tell students what to do
  • you say please or thank you often when asking students to do something
  • you find you redirect students and are met with a power struggle
  • you lose the momentum of your lessons when you have to redirect when teaching

Don't worry if you think you fit into one or more of those categories. I think most teachers do at some point in their careers! Redirecting students is not about being rigid or punitive; it's about regaining control of your classroom and setting boundaries so students can do their best learning. It's simple, respectful, and firm.

Here are some good examples of really effective redirecting language. 

"Stop. Take a break."
"We use kind words in this classroom. Those weren't kind words."
"Push in your chair."

Be mindful that if any of these are said with a frustrated tone of voice or some sassy body language, you've probably lost a lot of impact you could have had. Do you see how short those words are? No time is spent lecturing about the proper behavior. Just briefly give the direction for students to follow. It's so much easier!!

Also, did you notice that I'm not saying "please" or "thank you?" That seems to imply that following a direction is optional. It's not optional! "Will you please raise your hand?" is not meant to be a request, so don't make it one. Say, "Raise your hand," instead.

I also like to connect redirecting language to the rules if I'm having trouble vocalizing what I want quickly. One of our student-generated rules this year is, "Show self-control." I might just say, "Follow our rule show self control." Because we've discussed the rules in depth, my class will know what that means. If you haven't done that, you might need to say something more like, "Listen quietly."

HAPPY REDIRECTING, EVERYONE! I promise you will notice your lessons moving smoothly when you don't have to stop your lesson and redirect in the moment. Even if it feels mean at first, I promise it isn't. Your students won't think it's mean either.

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Why You Need To Use Reinforcing Language Every Day

Reinforcing language is a powerful tool that can make your instruction SO much more meaningful. When I changed the way I used reinforcing language, the shift I noticed in my students was drastic and almost immediate.

In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that the majority of the language you use when students are working should probably be reinforcing language.

This one simple language skill will significantly impact your students for the better! - A Word On Third

According to Responsive Classroom, "teachers use reinforcing language to show that they see students’ positive academic and behavioral efforts and accomplishments. Their words are specific and descriptive; their tone is upbeat and encouraging."

Remember to frame your language in a way that does not put an emphasis on getting your approval. For example, "I like how you used quotation marks so your reader would know who is talking," could simply be changed to, "You used quotation marks so your reader would know who is talking." With a warm tone, this still conveys that you're proud, but it takes the emphasis away from pleasing you and places it on doing great work. 

Reinforcing language is my secret weapon. Here's why I think you should use reinforcing language too if you don't already.

It builds confidence and community.

When a teacher says, "Good job," it's nice, but it doesn't give any substantial feedback. Good job with what exactly? What do you want the child to replicate? When a child hears the exact, specific skill they did a good job with named, they will probably want to continue doing it. They'll feel recognized for their hard work.

When you can give that specific feedback, in social or academic situations, you are building a community of learners. You show what you value to your students. Teachers can get stuck in the rut of correcting mistakes too often, especially since we were probably taught that way as kids. Be mindful of how damaging that might be to a students' self-esteem--especially if it's already low to begin with!

It prevents misbehavior. 

Confident students are going to behave better. We'd all rather take a preventative approach to classroom management rather than a reactive one, right? 

Students who may be unsure of what to do but then get specific feedback about what they did well will continue doing that thing well. Oh, hey, look! That builds confidence!

I know you can see the correlation between reinforcing language and preventing misbehavior, so I will leave it at that.

It deepens understanding of concepts.

If you can walk around at some point during independent work time and and simply name what you see, you are making a huge impact on your students. Try to do this at least once per day (or even a couple of times per week). For all intents and purposes, you'll be having a bunch of mini compliment conferences and guiding students forward in the right direction with a burst of positivity.

This is especially useful when you know a student was struggling with something. It's so important to celebrate struggling students and validate the hard work they did by positively reinforcing progress towards an ultimate goal or meeting that goal. 

HAPPY REINFORCING, EVERYONE! I promise you will notice a huge difference in your students' independence and an improvement in your students' academic performance when you consistently use this type of language. If you want more detailed information on how to incorporate reinforcing language into your day, check this post.

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Why You Need To Use Reminding Language Every Day

Reminding language is a powerful tool that is really easy to forget about--at least it is for me! I always need to make a conscious effort to use it, but I am always glad that I do. When I'm having difficulty in my classroom, 90% of the time it can be solved my tweaking my language.

This one simple language tweak will ease all of your teacher headaches! - A Word On Third

According to Responsive Classroom, reminding language is any prompt you give students to remind them of what they should be doing. It shows students you know they are capable of the task at hand and it reinforces their independence. It's brief, spoken respectfully, and can be used as a statement or a question. You should use it because...

It saves time.

Especially during transitions! You don't need to list the same directions over and over again if your students truly know the routines and you've done your job with interactive modeling

Try saying something like, "Everyone stop! Remind me what you should be doing right now," or, "Remember our rule about classroom materials."

If you know your kids are antsy prior to transitioning, you might even quickly ask beforehand, "What were the directions?" 

In my classroom, this is especially helpful when kids come up to hug me. This year I have a VERY huggy class (which is likely exacerbated by the fact that I'm a huge, warm fuzzy too!). While I love getting hugs from my students, it's not appropriate when it's learning time. If a student comes to hug me during a transition time or when I've given a direction, I always ask, "What should you be doing right now?" or "Show me your job." 

I used to feel bad about this, but I've come to realize that it's necessary for my sanity and for my students' ability to be productive. 

It stops you from talking too much.

When you give a direction, repeating yourself is a pain in the rear end! It causes students to tune you out. It makes you frustrated. So why do it? Instead of repeating yourself, try some reminding language! You might say...

"What are our routines for unpacking?"

It works for academic situations too--and brilliantly, I might add!

Instead of going on and on about independent clauses and dependent clauses and how they need to be joined with a semi-colon or a comma and conjunction, say, "What punctuation mark needs to be in your sentence?"

It places ownership on the students.

When you are the teacher, your job is to TEACH--not to spoon feed. It's really hard not to do the work for students, but it's not serving them. It sure isn't serving you either! 

If a student needs to be doing something, why should they do it if they know they can depend on you to keep them on task and following directions? Why should they think for themselves? They are going to learn not to be independent if you reinforce fixing everything for them.

Instead of fixing the problem you hear about when you pick your kids up from recess, try some reminding language!"What did we learn about conflict resolution?" "How might you use an I-message?" "What problem solving skill might you choose?"

HAPPY REMINDING, EVERYONE! I promise you will feel more patient and sane when you do this every day!

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3 Teacher Time Stealers And How To Speed Them Up

Every teacher knows that certain tasks like grading, lesson planning, copying, and communicating with parents can be time-consuming challenges. Streamline your regular teaching tasks with these time-efficient tips!

Use A Word On Third's 3 tips to boost your productivity in the classroom!

These 2 tips will help you grade less--or not at all--and still let you know your students' progress.

Teach your kids to be reflective learners by implementing a grading station. I ran across this simple productivity tip from Angela Watson, and I love it! Let's say your students complete some word problems. Simply create an answer key, make a few copies, and put them in a dedicated grading station area. Mine is just popped up on my easel with a magnet, but you might use a storage bin too. All you need to do is teach your kids the routines for using it. My kids know that they need to use marker rather than pencil so I can see the difference between what they knew and what they didn't know. After students grade their papers, have them hand them in.

I like this strategy for two reasons. First of all, it gives kids immediate feedback about how they are performing. Second of all, other than the obvious reason that it gives me less to grade, it helps to create a culture where learning is more important than being right or getting a certain grade. When you trust students with this, they see that. In my classroom, kids write how their thinking has changed (again, in marker) once they see correct answers on the answer key. If they can't explain it, I still know who needs reteaching. I couldn't love this more. I recommend keeping an eye on the grading station for the few kids who might need support with using it well--especially at the beginning!

Gone are the days of too much grading!

Another tip from Sheila Jane that I love is just grading less. Let's say a math worksheet has 10 problems. Can you grade only 3 or 5? Sheila suggests that students highlight or circle a few problems at the end of a work period and then immediately turn it in. By not telling students which problems will be graded ahead of time, you prevent kids from only working hard on the problems they know will be checked.

You get to decide which problems to pick. I usually pick one of each problem type. Additionally, I look closer at the worksheets when one of the selected problems is wrong. I'll also look at students I'm concerned about too, but it's nice to not worry about looking over every problem on every sheet! If this gives you a panic attack, try just grading the evens or odds first.

Streamline your parent communication.

Every week, I send home a ONE PAGE newsletter describing what we do in class. One means it's faster for me to create and increases the likelihood that parents will have a chance read it. Even parents who want to read your pages and pages of updates might not get a chance to read them.

My newsletter includes important upcoming dates and reminders, a picture of something from the classroom that happened that week (either finished work or students in action), and a student-generated bulleted list of what we've been doing each week. We call this section the "Ask me about" section, so families should ask their student about what's on the newsletter. For example, one bullet on the list might say something like, "Ask me about how readers use text evidence and character observations to make predictions." You're showing parents exactly what kids have been taught, but you're encouraging meaningful conversations about school. Because the students generate the ideas, they are more willing to discuss those things too.

This has been a game changer for me. I do this in about 5 minutes each week now instead of agonizing over what to write/email home. It really strengthens your relationships with your students' families. You can make your own newsletter, or you can snag mine for less than 2 bucks so you don't have to. My templates can be used each week, and there's 7 for you to choose from. Click here to check it out or click on the picture below.

Chunk the tasks you know you have to do each week.

This one is super simple but super effective. Got copies to do? Do it all at once. I like putting copies I need in file folders marked with each day of the week, and on Fridays I make all my copies at once and then put them away for the upcoming week. I have a 5 drawer storage system--one for each day of the week--that saves my sanity. PS- If you go on Friday afternoons (or even Thursday afternoons), you probably won't have to deal with a line!!

Plan all of your reading lessons at one time so you get into the flow. Prep all of your math games at one time. Write all of your emails at one time (perhaps each day). I let mine wait until the end of the day every day, but I check once in the morning to make sure nobody has a change in dismissal. Chunking like tasks with like tasks will make you a very happy teacher!

What have you streamlined to save time? Is there a tip you really want to try? Please write a comment below to share your thoughts with me!