Sunday, August 23, 2015

Accountable Talk

Hey everyone!

I had a training the other week (30 hours worth) for math and I picked up so many great tips. One of my favorite ones was about accountable talk. I know it's not a new topic, but it was "newer" to me.

It's a great way to have your students engaged in conversation that is meaningful, instead of just asking "Do you all agree with _____'s answer?" You get to see their think process and hear them ask questions to press on the thinking further.

The most important thing before you implement this in your class, is that your classroom environment is safe and respectful. All students need to be comfortable in asking questions without the worry of being laughed at.

   It looks like students turned towards a partner or their group. Their eyes are focused on whomever is speaking or looking at that person's work. No one is playing with things, their attention is focused on their partner/group.

It sounds like genuine questions being asked or comments being added to what is stated. 

    I will be starting with my class as soon as possible, but not until we set up classroom norms about how we discuss things as partners/groups. I plan on using the questions for not just math, but also reading or any subject for that matter. Then we will ease into asking a question during math or using one of the statements. 

My questions are right up front for my kids to see, but there will be smaller versions in their math folders, for easy access. I can't wait for my students to have more inspiring, engaging, and thoughtful conversations in class. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sweet and Sour (Words) Lemonade Party!

Hello! This is Lisa from ALL Y'all Need. My first week of school is next week and I wanted to share an idea that I implemented last year. 

Last summer, I heard the phenomenal Cara Carroll refer to less desirable words as "sour words" in her classroom. I LOVED IT! I immediately thought, "I'm using that!" and began brainstorming ways I could implement that idea in my classroom.

So here's what I came up with.... I decided to host a classroom lemonade party to introduce sweet and sour words in the classroom. My goal of the lemonade party was for my students to use their senses in order to gain a deeper of understanding of the impact of sour words.

Here is what happened at our lemonade party.

First, each student received a thimble-sized portion of lemon juice. We discussed how the lemon juice looked, smelled, felt, and tasted. As a class, we came to the conclusion that the lemon juice was extremely bitter. Their expressions were hysterical when they tasted the lemon juice! Then, a discussion was held about how bitter words are like lemon juice. Although they seem harmless, they have a bitter effect.

Then, we repeated the same procedure for lemonade. This time, my students were smiling after tasting the lemonade and many asked for a refill. We talked about how sweet words are like lemonade. They make us smile, feel good, and someone always wants more. Throughout the year, we referred to other's comments as sweet and/or sour words. I would hear, "Thank you for using sweet words!" and "That was very sour!"

I can't wait to host the sweet and sour lemonade party! I hope that it demonstrates the impact words have on us to my Pre-K students this year as much as it did last year. 

Happy teaching!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to School Freebies and More!

This is just a quick post, filled with freebies and other BTS resources to get you going for this new school year.

Each picture is a clickable link, so head to the resources that fit your BTS needs!

I start work tomorrow and I can't imagine life without these resources during this crazy time of year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Great books for the First Week of School

Happy Wednesday everyone! Sarah here from Sarah's First Grade Snippets. I hope your week is going well so far. I'm trying to enjoy my last couple weeks of freedom before it's time to set that alarm clock again. Once August hits, I get into "back to school" mode where my mind just starts going. One of my favorite ways to get back into school mode is a trip to my favorite book stores. Doesn't every teacher just love to sit in the children's section for hours and look for new books? Well, I don't have hours anymore, but I do love that this is one thing I can do for work that my own kids can enjoy too. I was on a mission this time to find some new (to me) read-alouds for that first week back.  I am ready for some new books but with some of these themes: feelings about the first day, friendship, and school. I'm happy to say I found some new (to me) favorites! 

Link to book: 

This book is adorable! My boys wanted to read it over and over again. The illustrations alone sparked conversation before we even got to the words! This is a great book for the first week because it's all about friendship. There are plenty of opportunities for discussion while you are reading this book: how the main character must be feeling, how the other characters treat him, and to be a good friend. My favorite part is the little jingle that Peanut Butter sings as he tried to make new friends. Get your students giggling on day one with this wonderful story! If I were crafty, I would think of a cute bulletin board idea with the heading: We all go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. This could be a great way to introduce the concept of a classroom community/team. 

Link to book:

This is another cute story that is perfect to talk about first day feelings.  I love the rhyming on each page and the monster characters are so lovable. This would be a great book to start with so you can address all those first day feelings and you could do the classic feelings graph with your class.

Link to book:

I bought this book last year when my son was entering kindergarten. We read it the night before I went into volunteer. He thought it was hilarious of course. I joked that I hope I didn't act like that mom! He immediately went into some of the rules that I should know about. ;) 

Link to book:

This is a cute story that highlights our unique interests. I love the illustrations  on each page, showing what each child wants to be (princess, astronaut, dragon, etc.) There is a good lesson in this story too, as some of the girls aren't very nice in the beginning. This would be a great way to bring up how we should treat each others. 

This little activity would be great to do afterward:

Link to book:

This is a great book to read a little later in the week when you are ready to get kids excited about writing. I would use it before introducing the writer's notebook. I probably would want to leave them wanting more, so I think I would show them my writer's notebook first then tell them that they get to have their own...soon!

Come by and visit my blog to read more!

Now it's your turn. What are your favorite read-alouds for the first week of school?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Take Time for Building Friendships

Consider this your friendly public service announcement: Take time in your classroom and help your students build friendships.  It might be the most important lesson we teach.

We can talk all we want about grades, we can look at all the data, and we can create academic masterminds if we need to. BUT--I prefer to start at the most basic level: learning how to be a friend and learning what a friend is.

As my teaching years progress, the area that continues to trump everything is social and emotional learning.  Kids need this help and it's our responsibility to give them the tools and strategies to help them as they grow.

Don't know where to begin?
-Start morning meetings that focus on the kids and their interests.
-Ask your students what it means to be a friend
-Talk with your social worker in the building.
-Read a book.
-Use a positive growth mindset

There's no bad time to start. Teaching your students what it means to be a friend to others (teachers, students, family) fosters relationships and build trust with everyone.

A photo posted by Nicole (@learning_lab) on

Nicole, at The Learning Lab, used a set of my How To Be A Friend posters on her door in school. It's a great reminder for students to see as they're walking in and out of the classroom all day.

If you need/want these visuals for your classroom grab one of the free sets here.  They're an easy and effective tool the give kids strategies to follow when working, playing, and navigating friendships.

Friendships and relationships make the world work, so take some time and make it a priority in your school and classroom this year.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Back to School, Back to Assessments - with a FREEBIE!

Can I just have a little teacher nerd moment with you guys?

I love back to school assessments. Like, for really love them.

There...  I said it.

It's like dumping out a 500-piece puzzle on the table, but knowing I have 180 days to put it all together. But I don't want to wait 180 days to see it all together. I like to dig in right away!! Anyone else??

In keeping with the puzzle theme, one of my "corner pieces" at the beginning of the year is a narrative writing prompt. I use 2 days worth of my Writer's Workshop in the first week or so to get an idea of what my students are like as writers. The narrative prompt helps me do this in three ways:

1. Narrative writing is the "easiest" for most of my students. Our kids love to tell stories. Love. It. You know that if we let them, they could spend HOURS dissecting their last birthday party or the sleepover they had last weekend. Narrative topics are the most relatable and I've found that my kids don't hit as many road blocks in their thinking once they get started.

2. In two days, I'm able to see which kids will need writing conferences right away and who will be able to work more independently for a little bit.

3. I can see which elements of narrative writing I need to spend the most time on in my mini-lessons, and which elements my kids already have a good handle on.

If you're interested in doing something like this, I have a freebie that recently got a little "facelift" that is PERFECT for this!

I've included full page and three-to-a-page versions of 3 different prompts. If you're using writer's notebooks, I would encourage you use the three-to-a-page version and make this one of their first entries. It will be a fabulous way to look at their growth as a writer later in the year.

You'll also find a student checklist and a standards-based data collection sheet where you can look at your class efforts all in one place. I left the assignment spaces blank so that you can decide which elements or conventions you want to look at as you read through their work.

 To grab your copy, click HERE or on the big pictures above to find it on TpT! Happy teaching!