{Week 1} BTS in a Flash! Teacher Faves

Back to School is such a stressful time for teachers... And if you're a mom (like I am) we also have to worry about buying uniforms, supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc... for our own children!

But when you put all the worrying aside, BTS can also be one of the most EXCITING times of the year! Every year I look forward to a new school year. It's not that I don't miss my students from last year, it's just that I LOVE the idea of a new beginning or a fresh start. 

So in an effort to give you a much needed break from stressing and offer you some tips, I've decided to join a linky party organized by 3 of my favorite bloggers Not So Wimpy Teacher, Fancy Free in Fourth and Ramona Recommends

Check out our linky of Teacher Faves and I'm sure you'll find a tip or two to add to your bag of tricks. It's sure to reduce some of that stress you're feeling right about now!

Here are 3 things that I could NOT live without during BTS time!

Organized Library by Genre:

After many years of organizing my library by AR level, I finally decided to make the switch over to GENRES. It was the best decision I ever made!!!! Last year I purchased these labels by Catherine over at    
The Brown Bag Teacher and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THEM!

Throughout the year we read books from various genres and we discussed their different characteristics. (Students frequently referred to these posters on the right.) They quickly began to figure out which genres they liked best.

Now that our library was organized by genres, they were easily able to search for books that interested them; and the best part was that each book was already labeled with its AR level. This made selecting books they found interesting AND on their AR level much easier to do. That's a win win in my book! Teacher and Students were BOTH happy!!!!!

Preprinted Parent Letters:

Before the year begins, I love to preprint letters that I use frequently. That way whenever I need a letter, I don't have to go scrambling for a sheet of paper and think of what to say and how to say it. Also, I don't have to worry about whether or not my printer decides to print at that moment. Instead, I just open up my Parent Notes binder and turn to the letter I need, sign it and voila I'm done.... Zero added stress for me!

If you'd like to read more about how I store my notes, check out this post here. Also, if you'd like a FREE copy of my Editable Behavior Chart just click on the picture below.

Invest in Strong Adhesive:

I know I know... you're probably wondering why I have adhesive as one of my teacher faves. Let me just tell you that there's nothing more frustrating then arriving at work early in the morning to find a handful of posters sitting on the floor after falling off the walls in the middle of the night. At the time who really wants to stand on top of a desk to start sticking posters back up... NOT ME!!!!!

That's why after testing out numerous kinds of sticky tac and foam square adhesives I have finally found the answer to my problems... 3M Command Strips. You know those white strips that you attach to the back of 3M hooks. Those small yet powerful strips not only hold up heavy posters ALL YEAR LONG, but if you pull the long strip slowly at the end of the year when storing away your posters, they won't remove any wall paint.

So far the best deal I have found is for the value pack of 48 small strips. I usually buy about 2 packs at the beginning of the year and they last me the entire year. No more falling posters with these babies. Just attach one strip to the top/ middle of your posters and you're good to go. You can attach sticky tac to the other corners. That way when the sticky tac lifts up (as it usually does) that single 3M strip will keep your poster from falling to the floor.

So there you have it, my 3 BTS Teacher Faves. 
What is YOUR best Back to School tip? 

Come join the FUN, link up, and share your OWN teacher faves!

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How to Create a Culture of Problem Solvers

For the past few years, I've noticed that many of my 3rd graders start off the year with few to any problem solving skills. If they have a problem with a classmate, they come to me in hopes of a solution. If they've forgotten their pencil at home, they also come to me. If they are stuck on a math problem, rather than try various solutions, they raise their hand in frustration and are quick to share "I don't get it!"

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, then no worries... I'm here to share with you a few tips that can help you create a culture of problem solvers! Once you've established this culture within your class, gone are the days of a zillion questions. Students will begin turning to their peers or even themselves to solve problems. Your job will be to encourage them to take risks, solve problems, and work with partners to find solutions. Pretty amazing, huh?

Ok, so let's dive right into it...

The problem solving approach is a process in which students are encouraged to think for themselves and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances or situations. This method involves teaching students a series of steps that will help them solve problems. This aproach encourages flexibility, perseverance, resourcefulness, and common sense rather than relying on adults or others to tell them what to do. The main premise behind this approach is that students need to learn to figure out their problems, make hypothesis, test out their ideas, adjust their thinking, collaborate with others, and take risks. Does this sound familiar? 
(The words S-C-I-E-N-T-I-F-I-C  M-E-T-H-O-D comes to mind.) 

This is usually the most difficult step for students. It involves them being able to verbalize what the problem is in their own words. In the beginning I recommend having students work with a partner or in groups to write down their problem statement. It is important that this be clear and specific.

 How will I complete my homework on nights that I have baseball practice?

Students need to be able to describe what might be preventing them from reaching their goal. Identifying barriers now, will help them when they have to come up with possible solutions.

When I come home from baseball practice I have to shower and eat dinner. Then I'm too tired to do homework. Exhaustion and nightly routines might prevent me from completing homework at this time.

Students need to brainstorm possible solutions. Try to have them come up with as many solutions as possible with a minimum of 2-3. Having multiple solutions allows students to have a backup plan in case their initial ideas do not work. It might also be helpful to think about how others have solved similar problems. I like to encourage my students to accept every idea during a brainstorming session, even if it seems trivial... If you think it, write it down I say.

Brainstorm: Start my homework on the way home, work on hw on the way to baseball practice, ask the teacher for work in advance, wake up early in the morning to complete hw...

Students need to test their solutions and if their first idea doesn't work, they need to try something else. Remind them that mistakes are part of the learning process and that it is okay if they have to go through a few solutions in order to get to the one that works best. Perseverance is essential for success! Some of the best scientists test numerous theories over the course of many years before achieving the results they had been hoping for. (This is a step that students will struggle with. In the beginning you will see them throwing in the towel when their first idea does not succeed. This is your moment to encourage them, motivate them, and remind them that this is all part of the process.)

Once students have tested possible solutions it is time for them to reflect on the results. Are they satisfied with what they have achieved? If not, then they need to consider what they might have done differently. Do NOT skip this step or rush through it! This is where much of the learning will take place.

If you'd like a FREE copy of my problem solving posters simply click on the images below.  I've also included a recording sheet where students can record their responses.

Now that we understand the problem solving approach a little bit better, let's talk about some tips that I've learned along the way...
Teach problem solving skills in ALL areas! This skill can be applied in math, science, reading, social situations, etc... Let your students see this and understand that problem solving is a life long skill. It is something that they will continue to use in the classroom, at home, in college, in the workforce, and in their adult lives. Do not be afraid to share stories with them about how you've been able to solve a few of your own dilemmas. Another neat idea is to have students help you come up with possible solutions to a problem you may be currently facing.

Model... Model... Model! Problem solving is not an easy task. It is challenging, can be time consuming, requires students to be flexible and to persevere. {It is not for the faint of heart... LOL} In your daily classroom routines show your students that you can be patient when solving problems. Share your thinking aloud with them so that they are able to make connections between your actions and each of the 5 steps previously mentioned.

Help students verbalize and record their problems in a journal or on a sheet of paper. Make sure that their ideas are clear and concise and that they have listed some sort of goal that they have in mind. In order for students to be able to solve problems, they first must be able to identify what the problem is. And although this sounds easy, it is actually a difficult task. I recommend that in situations where 2 or more students are having issues with one another, that you use this opportunity to have them think about what their problem is. You can begin by asking students "What?" and "Why?" questions. Have THEM work through their own problem and come up with possible solutions. Encouraging students to take an active role in the decision making process can be quite empowering.

Take your time! This is not something that will happen overnight! Students are going to need ample time to think, collaborate, come up with and test solutions, correct mistakes, and reflect. Begin whole class through group discussions where you model each of the 5 steps along the way. Then you can move on to small groups, peers, and eventually independent problem solving.  Don't give up! Start small... 

Ask questions and make suggestions, but be careful NOT TO TAKE CONTROL! Whenever a student comes up to you with a problem don't give them the answer. (Trust me this is going to be hard at first! Instead try "What do you think?", "Do you have any suggestions?", "Tell me about this...") Try encouraging them to ASK 3 BEFORE ME. Have students ask their peers when they have a question. This will promote collaboration and problem solving. 
Our role as teacher is to support our students and to encourage questioning and deep thinking. We must demonstrate to our kids that it is okay to make mistakes and that we believe that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.  Mistakes are useful and should not be discouraged! We should also aim to create a culture in our classroom in which everyone's ideas are valued and respected. We are to foster collaboration and open discussions in which students feel comfortable enough to share their ideas and opinions freely.

Now it's time to put all of this into practice...
Saving Sam

Source: Pinterest www.biologycorner.com
The Orange Game
Source: Pinterest 
Marshmallow Challenge
Source: Pinterest

It's your turn... I'd love to hear your thoughts on problem solving in the classroom. Do you currently promote problem solving with your students? Comment below with some of your experiences.

Teaching MOOD with MUSIC

Do you use music in your classroom?

I absolutely LOVE using music! I think it can help keep students focused and relaxed while working, I also think it's great for classroom management, and I think it's a wonderful motivator for students! Let's face it... MUSIC can be quite MAGICAL in the classroom.

However, for today's post I am going to focus on how I use music to teach my students all about MOOD. You see mood is one of those abstract concepts that can be quite tricky to understand.  That's why I decided to use music in the first place. You see my students were having a hard time identifying mood in texts. So I decided to begin with music, something we are all familiar with. I also think that for kids it might be easier to "feel" mood in music. Especially since many of us choose music to listen to depending on how we are feeling at the moment.

I began by introducing the term MOOD with the poster on the left. We then had a discussion on the types of music we like to listen to and how it makes us feel. Students came up with words such as happy, sad, excited, scared, etc... They were doing AMAZING!

So we moved on to "positive" and "negative" mood words. We discussed what the words meant and then proceeded to look through a list of words I had put together.

Some of these words they were already familiar with and some they were not, but that's okay because I'm always looking to challenge my kiddos and sneak in some new vocabulary. 

Once we had covered MOOD and the students had their list of positive and negative words we were ready to move on to the music.

For the next part of the lesson, I gave students a recording sheet (You can see the sheet I used down below). I proceeded to play 4 VERY DIFFERENT songs. After each song, I asked students to draw a picture or write a few words from their list describing what they were feeling while listening to each song.

I played each song 3 times. The first time the song was played I asked students to simply LISTEN and FEEL. During the next two times I played each clip I asked students to work on their illustrations.

These feeling faces that I found on Pinterest proved to be very HELPFUL with my class. I had them up on the SMART BOARD while we worked.

I also found a wonderful website that is a FREE library of TV theme songs that you can use called Television Tunes . You can either use this site to select your music or even use iTunes of Pandora . Just make sure that you've previewed the music ahead of time. {You wouldn't want any SURPRISES because we all know what that would be like!}

The last time I did this activity with my class I used the following song choices:
1. Charlie Brown Theme Song
2. STAR Wars Imperial March
3. Eye of the Tiger
4. Halloween Movie Theme Song

Take a look at what they came up with...

The children LOVED this activity! They even asked if we could do it again another day.

Now that we had a better understanding of MOOD in music, the next day we tried our hand at MOOD in a short text. I started off by giving my students a few sentences and asking them to circle any feeling words or words that would stir up emotions. Then in the faces below I had them draw what they thought each character looked like at that moment. Finally, on the line they wrote a positive or negative mood word.

Click on the picture to download
Once I felt my students were ready, we moved on to discussing mood using picture books! A wonderful resource I've found for sharing quality picture books is Storyline Online. If you have yet to visit this site you need to stop what you're doing and hurry over there right now!!!!!

I absolutely LOVE this website. It has famous actors and actresses reading popular and quality storybooks aloud. However, they don't just read the book, it actually seems as if they are acting out each book with their voices. (Great lesson on intonation for children!)

Now it's your turn... How do you use music or teach mood in your classroom?

Fun With Fractions

Hi, friends... I'm just popping in today to let you know that I've written a post over at iTeach Third that focuses on the F-word... you know what I'm talking about right...


Year after year this topic seems to be one that 3rd graders struggle with. It is also a topic that we need to make sure that our students understand because it is the foundation for  many further math skills.

In other words, if they leave us with a weak fraction foundation, then they will be doomed forever... they won't be able to share pizzas, measure correctly, bake cakes or even follow recipes!

 Just kidding... BUT without knowledge of fractions students will NOT be able to do algebra or percents. 

So what are you waiting for? Click on the picture above to go read about a few tips on how to make learning about fractions fun. Remember we need to make sure that our students leave us with a strong fraction foundation.

Let me know what you think!

What Works For Me: Teacher Appreciation Linky

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week... Woot Woot!!!! Set off the fireworks and send in the band it's time to celebrate ALL that we do... 

This is OUR week to celebrate! 

To express our appreciation for all that you do, I've teamed up with a group of my bloggy friends to share some of our secrets and to give you a few opportunities to participate in some AMAZING giveaways organized by Inspired Owl's Corner and Pawsitively Teaching

Let's get right to it!

Make life easy... use only ONE planner...

I own an Erin Condren Life Planner and I use it for home, work, and business. Having more than one planner is just too much to handle for me. Instead I have decided to simplify my life. 

I've personalized my own labels that I print on Avery Ink Jet Sticker Project Paper and then cut into strips. (Click on the picture to download a FREE copy for yourself.)

Besides my category labels, I like to use stamps and Avery color coding labels. I'm a very visual person so I need color in my planner. For my business I like to keep track of when I have a new blog post or when I post to Instagram or Facebook.

Here's a more detailed look at my planner...

As a busy mom of 2, teacher, TPT'er, and Blogger, staying organized is a must! 

If you are interested in a Life Planner, EC is having a 25% off sale. Also, if you use my referral code you'll receive an email with a coupon for $10.00 off your order.  

Give each of your students a number at the beginning of the year. 

I usually like to wait until the 2nd -3rd week of class since many changes usually occur during those first few weeks. I number my students alphabetically and if I get any students in the middle of the year I just add them to the bottom of my list rather than re-number my kiddos.

Why is this number system SOOOOOO WONDERFUL?

It makes finding out who has yet to turn in their paper much easier.

It helps organize my Parent Contact Log.

It makes filing a breeze.

Can be used as a quick way of recording student responses.

In addition, having a number system that is alphabetical comes in handy when you get a call from the office to line up your students quickly and in alphabetical order for vision and hearing screenings. In these cases all you have to do is line them up in number order.
Have a stash of parent letters printed and handy at ALL TIMES. I've found that whenever I've needed to write a behavior letter or important parent letter one of two things happens. Either my printer runs out of ink or I can't find pretty stationary to write on.

To prevent this from happening, I print a bunch of letters at the beginning of the year and file them away. As I run out of copies, I make more.

If you'd like an editable Weekly Behavior Chart to print and keep handy click on the picture below.

You can read a more detailed post of my Parent Letters System here and you can also check out my Editable parent letters by clicking on the picture below. 

Now that you've read all about my Top 3 Teacher Secrets it's time for a GIVEAWAY!!! 

Enter to win our prize bundles valued at over $475! You read that right... $475.00! Remember the more entries you have on rafflecopter the more chances you have of winning.

Just take a look at everything you could win...One lucky reader will win this entire prize package!!!

Prize Bundle #1 Includes
PLUS....$140 Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies sent to you from Amazon

We aren't finished yet....take a look at everything a second lucky winner will win!!!

Prize Bundle #2 Includes
PLUS....$140 Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies sent to you from Amazon

Be sure to enter both rafflecopters for a better chance at winning one of these amazing prize bundles!

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #1 Here

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #2 Here

You won't want to miss out on all the other great secrets being shared by successful teachers!  Be sure to check out all the other great posts below.

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