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!

How To Improve Community And Student's Listening Skills

The sharing component of Morning Meeting is the perfect time to enhance students' listening skills while simultaneously strengthening your classroom community. Yes--you really can do both at once with this trick.

How To Improve Community And Student's Listening Skills... All At Once! By A Word On Third

Remember, there are 3 types of sharing in Morning Meeting:

  1. A dialogue share is when a few students share about something in depth. You might give students a topic to share about, or they might come up with their own.
  2. A partner share is when students share with each other. Like a dialogue share, you might specific the topic of discussion, or you might not.
  3. Around the circle sharing is when every student shares by going around the circle and taking turns sharing the answer to a question. It might be academic or not.
Here's the simple trick I use for building listening skills during a share session. After the sharing is over, I ask some "Who remembers?" questions.

For a dialogue share, you might ask a specific question about a particular student's share. "Who remembers what Martin was hoping to get for a birthday present this year?" "Who remembers what Iva did on her trip to Mexico?"

For a partner share, I usually just ask students, "Who remembers what their partner shared about?" This also allows the class to hear a few things from other partnerships that they didn't get to talk to during the share.

For around the circle sharing, I'll ask who remembers what particular classmates shared. ("Who remembers what Johnny shared?") I'll also name something a student shared and ask the class who remembers the person that shared that thing. ("Who remembers which classmate baked cookies?")

The best part about this is that Who Remembers can be done in a minute or less. You can ask these questions with any words you want: "Who learned something new about a classmate today?"

You can even make it apply to your academic lessons, which helps your students to feel good about themselves too. I'll use this strategy a lot during the connection portion of our lesson. "Who remembers that awesome crafting move Somya told us she made during the share of yesterday's lesson? We're going to learn about it today!" or it might be as simple as "Who remembers what we did in reading yesterday?" 

My final word of advice is that if you use the "Who Remembers?" strategy, try not to repeat things a million times or do student voice-overs (when you repeat exactly what a student says). Say your words once (or let the student say them once) and let them have power!

Are you game for trying this? What are your listening tips?