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! To enter, you must: Like this post. Make sure you're following me @awordonthird. Tag a teacher bestie and tell them why you are grateful for them in the comments. Extra entries go to pals who share this post in their IG story, on their IG feed. 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! 

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! 

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