Monday, August 31, 2015

5 Tips for New Teachers

 When I think back to the beginning of my teaching career, I can't believe it was so long ago. I've learned so many things over the years that have helped. I'd like to share some of them with you.


One of the first things that I was taught in college was to be nice to the
custodian. He or she is your best friend and literally holds the keys to the school. Remember to always say hello, and show your appreciation with a Small gift at the end of the year and/ or during Christmas. Your other good friend is the office staff who run the school. 


Remember that the first year is the hardest. Everything is new, you are constantly being evaluated. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will make
mistakes, that’s how we all learn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from
veteran teachers, they’ve been there and done that. Most are very happy to share their knowledge with you.


For the first weeks of school be friendly, but a bit distant, esp. for older children. Try not to smile much. Be stern, this is the time to mold your class, to teach them the rules, regulations, and what you expect of them.  Believe me, from years of experience, I learned the hard way. Kids are cute, you want to smile and be easy on them. If you do, you’ll suffer for the rest of the year. Discipline is so important for learning to take place.  After a few weeks, you can let down your guard a bit and show them that you have a sense of humor.  If later during the year, they act up, you can remind them of what it was like at the beginning of the year. If you say, “Do you want me to treat you the way I did in August/September, I will.” Most will say no. They like a more relaxed atmosphere. This leads to my next tip.


 Be human, don’t be afraid to joke with your class, to smile and to just enjoy them. Let them know that you make mistakes too, and tell them to let you know if you make a mistake, they love pointing this out to you. Make some errors on purpose to keep them on their toes. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, we all do silly things once in a while. They will love you for it.


 Do have group meetings, especially in the morning after announcements, and they’ve settled down. Children have so many things to tell you, and if you let them, they will get it out of their system, and be able to work for the rest of the day. Especially now-a-days, so many little ones come into school unhappy about their life situation, their parent’s may be divorced, they may be abused and the list goes on and on. If you give them time to let things out, you’ll be so happy you did. and so will they.  When you have time during the day, call them to your desk, one at a time and just talk to them. This lets them know that you really care and you will have most of them eating out of your hands. Their parents too.


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Don't Go Back to School Without....

As much as I love seeing those smiling faces each year, I always get a bit sad when the summer ends and I have to go back to work. I get so spoiled, getting up in the morning and doing whatever I want. No alarm clock to wake me up, no set schedule, I can stay up late, go out and party during the week, no rules, no lesson plans, no prep. It’s so easy to get used to that. Don’t you agree. This summer I’ve decided to make life a little easier for myself and teachers out there by putting together a few items that will just make your job so much easier.

Here are a few lessons that I’ve included in my “Getting to Know You,” Back to School Bundle. Something that you shouldn't go back to school without. You'll love my chevron apples for the names of your students, if they're little you can pin the little apples on each child to help you remember their names. You might want to place the larger chevron apples on the bulletin board, under a tree.

 Once my homeroom gets settled and we've  taken care of those tedious little tasks, like  filling out forms and schedules it’s time for  some ice breakers, we need to get to know  each other. I play “Getting to Know You,”  from Rogers and Hammerstein's, The King  and I.  Next we discuss the meaning of the  song and how it relates to the first day of  school. 

 Getting to Know You Bundle
Getting to Know You Bundle
Free Preview
1. Play the song, “Getting to Know You,” from The King  and I. A YouTube Link and lyrics are included.
2.  Talk about the song and ask them how they get to know someone.
3.  Pass out Getting to Know You cards and have each child pick one. They will answer the question about themselves. The Teacher should also pick a card. and answer it, hat will help them to get to know you. too.
4. Want to make sure they are listening, you could have the class repeat something
that they learned  about each other.

Example for younger children
Teacher answers 1st question, Rachel is the 1st student, she repeats teacher’s
question and answers it, then Rachel has her their turn to  answer the
question.. Josh is next he repeats Rachel’s question and  answers it, he then
answers his own question.. You continue this way till everyone has had  their turn.
Example For or older children
Begin the same way as you would for younger children. When Josh has his turn, he has to repeat teacher’s Rachel’s question and answer, before heanswers his own question. As game continues,  each child has more and more to remember. At the end, you should try it.

One more thing, as if this isn’t enough, they have to say each other’s names and
then say the question and answer before they can read and answer their
question.  If this is too difficult, just have them repeat all the names of the students before them.

Another tip for remembering names is to keep your seating chart in front of you. It’s a great ally until you know all of their names.

For me, the next task at hand is opening lockers which is a very challenging activity. I’m sure to have one or two sixth graders in tears. There is an image of a locker with directions on how to open them, you can make a copy for each child.

 Homework Options you can use all of the worksheets or just a few. it’s up to you.
1.   Have students answer questions about themselves in complete sentences and make sure they use correct grammar.
2.    For younger children, I’ve included 4 all about me pages They are to answer questions about themselves and  color in the picture of a boy or girl and make the eyes and hair the same colors as their own. Two pages are in color and two pages are black and white.
3.   There are 7 writing prompts To help you begin to assess the writing skills of your class.  A grading rubric has been included for your convenience.
4.   Family tree, I’ve included 8 trees depending on the size of each child’s family. Before you
pass out  the  trees ask them how many people are in  their family and give them the
one with the correct amount of ovals. They can  include grandparents, aunts, uncles,
cousins, if they like. They are to  either draw the family member’s picture in the  oval, or use a photo., then write name of the person in the box underneath the picture.
5.  As a bonus, I’ve included a Back to School Crossword  Puzzle with an answer sheet.

Behavior Modification
Another bundle that has earned the name Don’t Go Back To School Without, is my Behavior Modification Bundle which will make your life much easier. It has everything that you could possibly need to help achieve the type of behavior that is optimal for learning.
Here are some of the lessons that I’ve included.
1.  Daily Point Sheet
This was used for special education classes. It can also be used for any grade. Fill in the subject, activity or time, at the end of the period put a smiley face, sticker or check mark in the box if the goal was met. You could also give each task a number equivalent, that way if they child pays attention for some of the time, he could still earn credit for being on task part of the time. That way he/she will not give up. You could make each category worth 5 points, or what ever you think is appropriate for your class. Included is a blank form for you to fill in yourself with your own goals and subjects.
2.. Time or Subject Card Instructions
This was used with special education classes. Tape card/paper to each desk. When child behaves appropriately, attach a colored star (it can be handmade), sticker, checkmark, or whatever you’d like.  Do this every 15-20 minutes. At end of day add it up and child earns a pre-determined reward for a certain number of stars.
3. Daily Behavior Form for Primary Grades
Just like a traffic light. Green means go, orange means caution, and red means stop. Circle the appropriate colored oval. Green is for good behavior, Orange is for caution, not the best choice, and red means poor decision.
4.  Weekly Behavior Chart for Teacher and Child to Fill Out
It is so important for children to learn that they need to be responsible
for their own actions, that’s why this worksheet is useful. Very simple circle the number that corresponds with behavior. 5 is great, 1 is poor. The child may fill out his/hers, the teacher may fill it out, or both the child and teacher can fill it out. There is a spot for comments as well as signatures from the teacher and the parent.
5 Weekly Behavior Chart
Before you introduce this chart to the class, you should discuss the desired behaviors, the highest amount of points they can earn for each subject/activity or time period, and the amount of points needed by the end of the week for their desired reward.
   For example, you may decide the children can earn up to 10 points, you can give them less, depending on their behavior. Each chart has a place for their name at the top, a section for subjects/times, and a place to put the points earned for that particular activity. At the bottom the child will write how many points they need for the particular reward that they would like. You have 6 activities each day, they can get 10 points for each. They can earn 60 points per day and 420 by the end of the week.You will have to decide ahead of time how many points each reward is worth. Discuss rewards with the class and see what they would like.
  One Free Homework could be worth at least 375 points
  Computer time 275 points
  Board games  325 points
  Chewing gum in class 400 points
  Movie 400 points 
6.  Class Reward Chart. I’ve included two class reward charts for you to keep track of the rewards used. There is room to write the names of the students, I’ve left a blank space, next to points for you to fill it in yourself. That way, the class will know how many points everything is worth and they won’t have to bother you about it. When the child uses his/her reward, put the date. That’s it.
7.  Problem Solving Worksheet
I’ve already mentioned how important it is for children to learn responsibility for their
actions. Two worksheets are included that address this. The first one can be used with younger children. The child is to write about a problem that has occurred between himself/herself and another child. Not only focusing on the negative but the positive, they are asked how they could have handled the situation better, and what they have learned from it.  The second worksheet is for older students, they are asked to tell their side of the story, and how they could have handled it better. These worksheets are given to all children involved in the incident. If the child has an issue with another adult, they can use this for that also.
8.  Incident Report
As a final recourse, this form is for the teacher to fill out. It should be kept as part of the student’s record and may be copied to give to the principal and sent home to the parent.
 9. Happy Grams
So many times the only notes that are sent home are negative, that’s why I’ve created Happy Grams for any type of good behavior. I’ve included a few letters for different subject areas and good behavior, plus a blank one for you to fill in.
10. Detention Notices to Parents
 Last of all, there are 5 types of detention notices if you want to keep a child after school as a consequence for their actions. This will give you some time to speak with the child and find out what is going on. That way the child will know that you care, you are taking the time to talk. Sometimes just one detention is all it takes.

If you’d like to have the worksheets that go with the rest of these activities please visit my Tpt Store.

I hope that this post has helped to make the beginning of your school year a bit easier.
Best of luck to you..


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Saturday, August 08, 2015

New Beginnings, Organizing a Middle School Classroom

It seems like every year, summer vacation goes quicker and quicker and before we know it, school
Socrates Lantern
comes a calling.  What I’ve always liked about teaching is that each year is a new beginning.  What happened last year is in the past and I’m always so happy to meet my new charges. New challenges, new things to teach, new things to learn, different methods and programs keep my teaching fresh.  I’m going to share some of the things that I do to organize my classroom into the best 
environment for learning.

Here are some tips that I've used and they’ve been quite successful.  We have two main groups of 25-30 students each. Before school my partner and I take a look at the comments from last year's teachers. We then set the children up into groups according to their grades as well as their strengths and weaknesses. We come up with  creative names for them such as: Greeks and Romans, Black and Blue, or we ask them what they’d like their group to be named and we take a vote. The kids really like to pick their own names. Of course we change them each year because we don’t want the kids to know which is the higher or lower group.

I’m a great proponent of Collaborative learning, so I set up my classroom accordingly. It works quite well for what I want to do.
I like my students to work in groups of four so  I make two rows of horseshoes. Two members of the group are in the front, the other two sit in back of them. So when it is time for group work, the front row only has to turn their desk around to face the other two. Of course this takes a little bit of practice, but they eventually get it. When we begin group work it can get noisy so I have to remind them to use inside voices, I might also hold up a finger,  ring a little bell, or hold up a QUIET sign  to let them know they need to quiet down a bit.

Groups are composed of one high level child, two with average ability and one lower level child. I also try to have 2 boys and 2 girls in each group. That way there is diversity in abilities and they can all help each other. I found that the best arrangement for groups is no more than 4 so if I have 25 students I will make 6 groups of 4 and one with 5.  Each group remains the same for one semester, and then we rotate. We would change groups 4 times throughout the year since we had 4 semesters. I liked having them work together for at least two months, getting to know each other, cooperating and allowing each child a chance to be heard.  Of course there are always one or two kids that have a hard time working with others.  If that occurs, you might pull them from the group and have them work on their own, esp if they are disruptive, until they can prove that they are able to work within a group. Setting up the rotations takes a bit of  work since you don’t want to have the same kids in the group more than once.  

Like most schools, we use a computer grading system, but, I’m a little old fashioned and like a hard copy of my grades. It’s easier to write them in my trusty grade book and then transfer them to the computer. Also, if a parent or student wants to see their grade, I find it easier to just show them the book.

1. Split book in half with a section for each group. Glue or tape
    list of type written names of students in each group into
    their designated section.
2. Label both sections with English, and Social Studies.
     For ex: Roman group: First Semester, Label the tab
    with Language arts. Count 4 pages for Language Arts,
     4 pages for Social Studies. Then do the same for
     the other group Greeks. Make sure there are
     enough pages for all of the semesters.
3.  When you finish with one semester, fold back or cut
     the pages on dotted line so you can see the
     students names. Label the  new page with 2nd
     semester, and so on.   One picture speaks 1000 words,
     so please take a look at the images of my grade book.


Bulletin boards are next, I decorate one for social studies and
language arts which I change each semester for some variety. I have a checklist for book reports, Computer Dos and Don’ts, Quotes to discuss, a rewards board and classroom rules.

Before I drift off to sleep the night before my students arrive, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my room is set up. I'm now ready to dive into another exciting and rewarding school year.

Image Credits

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This post is part of our Sharing is Caring Teacher Blogging Collaborative. Read about  how these veteran teachers approach the beginning of the school year.

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Back to School Binder for Grades 2-7 & Special Education

If you're like me, the first day of school is a challenge. New kids, that's the fun part. Lesson plans, schedules, rules, HOW to open their lockers, not so much fun. So I've come up with this this Back to School Binder for Grades 4-7 and Special Education, to help make that first day/week/month a bit easier.  I love music so I’ve incorporated the theme “Getting to Know You,” from Roger’s and Hammerstein’s The King and I into this bundle. You can use the included YouTube video link to the song as well as a copy of the lyrics. This binder has everything you need to begin the school year such as name tags for the bulletin board, for the kids to wear and even to place on desks. I’ve added 6 writing prompts with a grading rubric, family trees, cards with questions to answer as ice breakers, a crossword puzzle, and more. This is a growing bundle, when I think of more things to add, I will let you know. If you think of more things for this binder that would make your life easier, just comment.

Please visit Socrates Lantern's Tpt Store to view this binder


What’s Inside

Complete lesson plans ……………...5 - 7

Getting to Know You,
YouTube Link and Lyrics………………..8

Large apple information and
name tags for bulletin board………9 -16

Small apple information and
name tags for student to wear…17 - 20

Name tags for desks……………  21 - 33

Cards with questions…………….  34 - 37

How to open a locker…………………..38

All About Me……………………… 39 - 42

Apple homework questions………43 - 48

Writing prompts…………………  49 - 55

Writing Rubric…………………………...56

Family trees………………………  57 - 64

Crossword puzzle………………… 65 - 66

Crossword puzzle answers…………….67

Contact information…………………....68

I hope you like it.


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I feel privileged to be a part of a linky party with these creative educators who are sharing their 
Tried and True Back to School activities that have been used with their students.

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