Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Equity Sticks

Most of us who have been teaching for awhile now are familiar with name sticks, or the newer term in education: equity sticks.  Equity sticks are a set of  craft/Popsicle sticks in which individual names of students in your classroom are written.  *If you teach pre-k or kindergarten, gluing the students' pictures on the top of the sticks is a fabulous way to begin the year!  The sticks are placed in a cup.  If you teach multiple classes, simply purchase two different colors of craft sticks at your local craft store.  Assign a color per class/period.  You can even color code the sticks for boys/girls to ensure you are choosing equally...especially if you have an uneven number of boys and girls.  I personally have two sets of equity sticks made because I use them so often...I have one set near my rug area and another near the front of the room.  You can use equity sticks throughout the day as an accountability tool for your students.  There are so many uses for them!  Today I wanted to share some of my favorite uses for them.


Answering Questions: This is the most common way equity sticks are used.  The teacher pulls sticks out at random to give everyone a fair chance to answer a question or give a thought.  They are great tools for checking for understanding during a lesson.

Reflection Tools: Equity sticks can be used as a reflection tool at the end of a lesson or the end of a day.  Gather students around you and ask them to think about their day.  Have them think of something that went well and something that could use improvement.  Call on students to reflect.

What I like about using sticks vs. having kids raise their hands is that everyone gets a fair chance to answer.  No one is "off the hook" if they don't raise their hand during a traditional hand-raising q and a session.  One thing that I do that you may not have thought of is I place the stick back in the cup immediately after calling on a student.  Doing this keeps everyone engaged, because again, no one is "off the hook" during the entire lesson.  At times, kids will get two turns and other kids will get *lucky, as they probably think* and have zero turns.

If you'd rather keep track of who has/hasn't responded or had a turn, you can use this simple idea (shown below) from Recipe for Teaching.


Partnering Students:  Getting ready to play a Math game or Phonics game?  Need to partner your kids up?  Avoid kids huddling together and begging to be with a friend with the use of equity sticks!  Whip out two sticks and those two kiddos are partners!

Kindness Notes:  Kindness notes are a great way to build community within your classroom.  These can easily be implemented into any Writing program you have.  I personally like to add them into my Morning Meeting each Friday.  To set up a Kindness notes area, simply get your equity sticks out and pass out one to each child, making sure kids don't get their own stick.  Then pass out this free Kindness notes printable (picture and writing options both included-great for differentiating!).  Students take a few minutes to write or draw a kind note to a friend.  Sometimes I will put sentence frames up for the kids (particularly during first semester) to help them with their writing.  After they've had ample work time, model how to give the notes to one another and reinforce manners.  You'll love seeing the smiles on your students' faces with this little gesture that can be implemented so quickly and easily!  You can have your kids take their notes home immediately and show their families.




Mystery Walker:  If you'd like to work on your kids' hallway behavior, Mystery Walker is for you!  It's quick and easy, which is what makes it so appealing to me!  Also you have the element of surprise/unknown for your students!  Keep a cup of sticks near your door and as you leave the room as a class (or as often as you wish), choose a stick.  Keep it a secret.  Tell the students that you'll be looking for the Mystery Walker as you walk to Gym, Music, Lunch, etc...Remind the class of the hallway expectations.  When you get there, reveal the stick!  You can choose to give them a reward or even a verbal reward/class cheer is great!  We have a traveling behavior stick/clip chart as well as personal clip charts at my building, so the Mystery Walker automatically gets to move their clip up if they do a nice job in the hallway.  *If your Mystery Walker doesn't have good hallway behavior, do not reveal their stick!  Tell the class you'll try again another time because your walker had some trouble in the hall.  Grab a free Mystery Walker sign by clicking here.

Source: Pocketful of Littles


Student of the Day:  Similar to Mystery Walker is "Secret Student!"  Print and laminate this free sign from Teach Create Motivate.  Hang up the sign.  Pull an equity stick prior to kids coming in for the day.  Hang the sign up and write the person's name on the board behind the sign.  Tell the class you'll be looking for the Secret Student all day...watching for great behavior and friendship.  At the end of the day, if your student has demonstrated what you were looking for, reveal their name.  It's up to you if you want them to earn a small prize, move their clip up, etc...if the SS had trouble, do not reveal the name.  Tell the class you'll try again tomorrow with a new SS.



Positive Notes Home: I love giving a few of these out with kids who had excellent days.  However, when the class as a whole has a great day, it's hard to choose specifically who gets a note!  I can pull a few equity sticks to make my decision fair and simple.  Click here to get these Positive Notes Home.  They make a world of difference!
How do you use equity sticks in your classroom?

xo
Megan 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday 6 January 13

Hi!  Welcome back to the second week of Saturday 6!  Thanks to those who linked up with me last week!  In case you missed last week's post, click HERE to see it!  I've enjoyed reading your posts!  We had another short week this week...snow day Monday and early release Friday due to snow/ice.  Luckily I was able to squeeze in some teaching Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, although most of my time was spent re-directing and reviewing classroom discipline and routines...The kids haven't had a solid week of school in 4 weeks.  Yikes.

Last Sunday, Mr. Wheeler and I met up with my family to celebrate my birthday.  We had breakfast and went to some antique shops.  It's always great to see my family!  They live just 1.5 hours North, but everyone is always busy, so we don't see one another as often as we'd like.  We had a great visit!  


When we saw my family, they of course had presents for me!  Hahaha!  My mom and dad got me this egg cooker!  I am obsessed with it!  I eat boiled eggs for breakfast every day (just the whites).  I was buying pre-boiled eggs but I thought I'd rather make my own.  Any time I can simplify the cooking process, I'm down!  This egg cooker is amazing!  So easy.  You just add water to the bottom, put the eggs in, put the lid on, and turn the button on.  Come back 18 minutes later and your eggs are perfectly hard boiled!!!!!!!!!!!  There's also a little tray for making poached eggs if you like that...To grab yourself one of these (for cheap!) click below. 


As I mentioned above, this week was a little crazy and I had to do a lot of re-directing.  It was exhausting.  I also tried to cram in probably too much academic stuff because #curriculumdepartment.  By Thursday I had to give the kids a break.  We read my favorite winter book, Snowy Day.  I also have the DVD so we watched that and did the Scholastic News that went with it.  They loved all three of these things!


We started a new classroom goal and I had to bust out the big dog (pizza) for this because the kids are bonkers.  Once we meet this goal, we will move on to another!  I love using this incentive in my room.  It really helps promote teamwork!  Grab it by clicking below.



My teammate and I were #twinning on Friday!  We both happened to have this tee from The Wright Stuff Chics!

Morning Meeting has been rusty because of the inconsistent school schedule, so we've been working hard on paying attention and participating during this time.  Yesterday we played "Find my Mystery Word."  To see more about Morning Meeting, click HERE.  



Enjoy your weekend and feel free to link up below!

xo
Megan


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

To Let Them Choose...

I've been teaching for 14 years.  All of those years spent in 1st grade in the same district and the same building.  I like to think that I have some things figured out when it comes to first grade.  However, I am always looking for ways to improve my craft.  I am not one for trendy/bandwagon topics in education.  I like to use strategies that work and that have been tested in the classroom and are going to stay around for a long time.  For all of my 13 years, I've had my kids' desks set up in small groups.  I really like this because the small group format gives kids the chance to develop their social skills and talk with one another.  Small groups are also great for cooperative learning activities.  It also makes passing out supplies that much easier, hahaha!  Every quarter, for the past 13 years, I've changed my kids seats.  This was always done in an effort to help kids get to know others in the room and to keep them from getting "too comfortable" with their close friends.  For the most part, switching desks worked, but I would spend so long working on the seating chart.  Bobby can't sit next to Sally.  Jimmy can't sit next to Tiffany.  You get it.  It was a nightmare.  Then there was the moving of the desks, because I always used packaging tape to tape down their name tags..in the fall I would rip up the freshly waxed floors.  There was also the noise.  Anyhow, once I had all the desks moved and the kids in their assigned seats, problems would arise.  I'd be spending even more time moving the kids in and out of groups...hence extra work on me.  There had to be an easier way.  This year, in the fall, I set up the desks in groups, making sure to put an even number of boys/girls in each group.  I got smart and used wax clips (link below) to put the kids' name tags on their desks.  The kids have done an excellent job of not picking at them or playing with them.  Each Friday when we disinfect our desks, they slip their name tags out of the clips and wipe under and around them.  I thought the wax clip was genius.  That tip came from a newer teammate on my team.  I will never go back to packaging tape!




Fast forward to the end of the first quarter and time to move desks...*I have four (bolded because I only have 19 students) students with MAJOR behavior concerns in my class this year.  Separating them from one another and others who trigger their behaviors was going to be challenging.  I had a come to Jesus moment.  I thought to myself:  I have always had extremely high expectations for my kids and they always rise to the occasion.  I have always given them responsibilities that are appropriate for first graders and they are able to complete them with flying colors.  And I'm all for anything that takes a little off my workload!  So back to my epiphany, why wasn't I LETTING MY KIDS CHOOSE THEIR OWN SEATS?!!?  I let them choose their own seats on the rug and at the front of the room during instruction.  I let them stand where they want in line.  I let them sit next to whomever they want during lunch.  Why is seat work time any different?!  For a minute I thought I was crazy, given my four friends who struggle, but then I thought, what the h***?  I can always assign seats if need be.  So, come second quarter, I sat my class down and had a little chit chat with them about choosing their own seats.  We brainstormed what would be a "smart choice" for where to sit.  We talked about not sitting next to friends that we would be tempted to excessively talk to.  We spoke about sitting next to someone we maybe we don't know too well yet; someone we could get to know a little better.  We talked about how choosing our own seats was a privilege...that if they couldn't handle it, we would go back to assigned seating.  We talked about all the things.  And then, I let them go.  They gathered their belongs and name tags and went for it.  No one pushed.  No one yelled.  No one cried or whined.  They simply found someone to sit next to and that was that.  What surprised me was the fact that my four friends chose to sit next to the most well behaved kids in the class.  The leaders.  Those kids know that they struggle.  The want to improve and they actively chose to sit next to the leaders.  I haven't had to move a single desk since I gave my first graders the freedom to choose their own seats.  We are now in the third quarter and they've chosen new seats yet again this year.  I'll never go back to assigned seating again.


So the moral of this post is simple:  When you let your students have a choice, magic happens.  I dare you to try it.  I'm sure you'll be as surprised as I was. 

***For more classroom management posts, click HERE.***

xo
Megan 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday 6 January 6

Hi, friends, and welcome to the very first "Saturday 6!"  I am super excited to get this going!  If you're a teacher/parent, hopefully you'll get some new ideas from this linky.  If you are a blogger, I'd love to have you link up!  Just be sure to link back to my blog and include the "Saturday 6" images!  You can grab them below and save them to your computer so that you have them each week!

This week is our first week back after winter break!  It's also the start of the 3rd quarter.  I start each quarter with fresh checklists in my grade binder.  Once I complete report cards, I file the prior quarter's grades and make new checklists.  I LOVE these checklists from Ladybug Teacher Files.  I've been using them for a few years.  I like how clean the checklists look and I also like that she's included an editable option so I can change the headers for the subjects at the top.  How do you keep track of grades?  We are obviously still pencil/paper in my district!




This past week has been FREEZING cold!  We were in California for Christmas and it was nice and mild...70-75 degrees.  We came back to a lot of snow and -0 temps!  Brrr!!!  I've had the hot cocoa pitcher on repeat!  I got this at Williams Sonoma many years ago.  I love it because it has a battery-operated blender inside the lid!  I just add warm milk and cocoa and push the button.  The lid whisks the cocoa and milk together making the most delicious hot chocolate!  I can't find it online anymore, but I also have the little hand mixer shown below, and it works well, too!  





Before Christmas, I decided to break apart a couple things from my Guided Reading Bundle to make them more affordable and available for those who don't need the entire bundle.  These are my "Fluency Sentences" and I have them in a CvC Edition as well as a Blends Edition.  Click each cover below to check them out.  These are great to use for RTI, Guided Reading, or to send home for extra practice.  


Who doesn't love a fresh new pack of Sharpies?  I just filled up my mug with a new set from Christmas.  P.S. I love this mug!  It is from Franchesca's!  


We had a crazy week back!  We were off for the holiday Monday, had a snow day Tuesday, a 2-hour delay Wednesday and Thursday, and a snow day Friday!  Needless to say, I didn't get much done at school, other than reviewing rules/expectations and a few other things.  The extra long break was nice, but next week is going to be brutal--5 full days!  Hahaha!  



Despite the crazy schedule, I did manage to introduce new centers this week...my New Years Literacy Centers.  The kids had a lot of fun completing these!  For a detailed post about how I set up and manage centers, click HERE.  To grab my New Years Centers pack, click the cover below.





xo
Mrs.Wheeler


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Favorite Winter Picture Books

In Late November, I shared my favorite December/Christmas picture books with you.  In case you missed that post, you can check it out by clicking HERE.  This month, I'll be sharing my favorite books for winter!  If I know of a great resource to go with each book, I've included pictures and links below them!  I do try to only link quality activities, so most of what I find will be paid items on TpT.  To order any of the books below, simply click the Amazon boxes.  *Affiliate Links*

Sneezy the Snowman-This is a fun book about Sneezy, a snowman, who is freeezing cold!  He tries various tactics to warm up.  The kids love finding out what makes Sneezy feel "just right!"  I've paired this book with a pack I just discovered from Teach, Love, and Iced Coffee.  It looks like a great little pack to teach cause/effect.  I especially like the written responses and retelling activities!  I can't wait to use this with my class on Friday!




Winter Wonderland-Part of National Geographic's "Picture the Seasons" series, this beautiful picture book takes kids through the season of winter and all the changes that go with it.  It's an excellent addition to your classroom library!  I am pairing this book with a bubble wrap snow tree from Arty Crafty Kids.  I know the kids would have a blast with bubble wrap!



image from Arty Crafty Kids
The Snowy Day-This ties with "Corduroy" for my favorite book of all time.  I remember reading it over and over again as a little girl.  As an adult, I love sharing it as a read-aloud with my first graders!  This is a CLASSIC that every teacher should have in their library!  I've paired it with a book companion by Michelle Oakes.  She's included seven days of lesson plans covering a plethora of skills to go with the book!





The Mitten by Jan Brett & The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt-Another great, timeless classic is "The Mitten!"  The kids love reading these books each winter.  Jan Brett's beautiful illustrations are captivating and we all enjoy predicting which animal will crawl into the mitten next!  Alvin Tresselt's version is older than Jan Brett's and slightly different, but enough the same to use as a compare/contrast activity.  I've paired this book with my "The Mitten" pack, which has activities for both Jan Brett's version and Alvin Tresselt's version, linked below.  The kids especially love the Venn Diagram activity as well as creating and writing about their own mittens with adjectives!  *Because I know you will ask, I've linked the large, Venn Diagram pocket chart below!*








Snow-Another beautiful book!  People don't think the snow will amount to anything in this story...until it starts to really add up.  Once that happens, everyone learns how to have fun and enjoy the beauty of snow.  I've paired it with this adorable (and free) "Catching Snowflakes on my Tongue" craft by A Year of Many Firsts.

Sleep Big Bear, Sleep-This is a cute, rhyming book about hibernation for Big Bear.  Old Man Winter keeps telling him to sleep, but Bear's hearing isn't the best...the kids will crack up seeing all the crazy things Big Bear *thinks* Old Man Winter is telling him to do!  For an online version on YouTube that could be a re-read, click HERE.  I've paired it with sequencing activity that I found on TpT.  I recommend this activity for pre-k or kindergarten.  It looks too simple for first grade.



The Jacket I Wear in the Snow-I remember reading this fun rebus/rhyming book during my student teaching days way back when!  I loved it at the time and it was one of the first books I bought for my classroom!  The kids love helping with reading aloud and the rebus pictures make it easy for them to do so!  This books lends itself to tons of sequencing activities!  



Snowballs-This is an adorable book about building snowmen and snow animals.  Lois Ehlert uses collage and a variety of unique objects to bring her snow creatures to life!  The kids always enjoy this book!  I've paired it with a fantastic art project by I Heart Crafty Things.  I can't wait to do this with my first graders next week!!!!


image by I Heart Crafty Things blog
There you have it!  A few of my most favorite books for winter!  Hope you found some new ones to add to your library!

xo
Megan