Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 First Day Procedures You Need to Teach

The beginning of the school year is right around the corner. Teachers everywhere are planning out their room decor, thinking about their first week's plans, and trying to get back in the mindset of the school year. But, did you know that the most important thing you should be doing right now is figuring out what procedures you want your students to learn the first day...the first week?

When your new students walk into your classroom on the first day of school, they are nervous and shy. Is she/he going to be nice? Will I like my new class? What do I do if I have to go to the bathroom? I'm not kidding. That last question is important. It's so important that it is one of the first procedures I teach on the first day of school. I want to ease my new students minds right away.  I want them to feel a sense of belonging and knowing how things work in my class.

I spend a considerable amount of time teaching procedures the first two weeks of school. Each day I introduce 5 procedures and review all of the previously taught ones. Does this take a lot of time? Yes, but it is completely and utterly worth it! Here's my list of the top 5 procedures that I teach on the first day of school.

If I am not teaching the whole group, place the bathroom pass on your desk. sign the bathroom sheet, and go quietly to the bathroom. Do not play in the bathroom! Come back into the classroom, wash your hands with soap and water, dry them with no more than 2 paper towels, and make sure the towels land in the trash basket. Put the pass back and return to your seat. 

Seems specific doesn't it? That's the point. This is an area where shenanigans seem to begin, so I make sure they know exactly what it expected.  In our school, bathrooms are in hallways between classrooms, so students are able to go anytime we are in the classrooms. But, I don't want them getting up during instruction and missing important activities and information. Throughout the day, there are plenty of times when I am not teaching whole group, so this procedure is not too restrictive.

However in the event it's an emergency, my procedure is: 

If you need to go to the bathroom at an unspecified time, please raise your hand and ask, "May I please go to the bathroom?"
Coming to Attention

When your attention is needed, Mrs. Hanneken will ask for your attention in several ways. When you hear these, stop what you are doing and listen for instructions.

When I say                                            You say

"Marco"                                                   "Polo"
"Spongebob"                                          "Squarepants"
"Florida State"                                      "Seminoles"

I've tried many different methods over the years, but these seem to work really well. Choose just a few and use them for awhile. You will need to change them periodically because they will begin to ignore you. Then it's the perfect time to teach them a new one. You can find lists of these call outs on Pinterest. 

When I teach this, I refuse to continue until 100% of my students are paying attention. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you don't, this method won't work. Once they realize you are serious, you rarely have a problem and you and your students can get back to work right away. 

Lining Up

In order to maximize learning in my classroom, I want my students to be on task 100% of the time. So, when it is time for us to leave the classroom for lunch or special area classes, I want them to line up quickly and quietly. 

Our class will line up in alphabetical order. The line leader will be first, then the door holder. You will line up quietly, fold your arms, face forward and be ready to leave. We will leave the classroom when everyone is ready. 

If they don't follow these directions, I tell them to sit down and we'll try again. After this happens a few times, they get annoyed and do it right. Now they know I mean business!

 5 ft. Rule

I can't take credit for coming up with this, but it was clearly a GENIUS who did. You know how your students all need you at the same time and how they say your name a MILLION times a day and they never notice that you are talking to another human being? They just interrupt a lot? Yea, me too.

Here's the solution to this problem and I start it on the first day of school.

If you need to ask a question or tell me something important and I am with another student, talking to an adult, or eating my lunch, you will follow the 5 ft. rule. Stand 5 ft. away, but within my eyesight, and wait for me to acknowledge you. When I am able, I will help you with whatever you need. Do not interrupt me UNLESS it is an emergency. I define this as blood is running down your body, your hair is on fire, or someone is hurt. 

I model this explicitly and it works. Period. If they interrupt, I just ignore them. Not kidding.  Try it. Try it with your own children. You will love this one.

3 Before Me

There is one me and 20+ of them. I physically and mentally cannot answer every question my students have in the day. I am teaching them so many things on a daily basis, but usually the questions they have are not about content, but procedures or instructions. So, after I have given directions and asked my students if they have questions, which of course no one does.... But  5 minutes later they do... I  say Ask 3 Before Me. This gives them permission to ask three classmates before they ask me. This way, the students who understood the directions can tell the 5 minute later kids and I can move on. This procedure saves a lot of time and two things happen - they learn to rely on each other more and they become better listeners.  Win-Win!

These are the top 5 procedures I teach on the first day of school because they are some of the most important and they ease students minds right away. I have about 20 more that I will teach over the course of the first two weeks of school. I promise if you focus on teaching procedures the first two weeks of school, your school year will go smoother. Best of all, you won't waste valuable instructional time telling students what to do - they will know.  Just make sure you teach it, model it, practice it, and review it until they have got it.  

If you need help planning these top 5 procedures and what other procedures you may need, download my Classroom Procedures Worksheet to get you started. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Improving Fluency with Pyramid Sentences

Helping emergent and beyond readers who struggle to gain fluency is a daily occurrence in most classrooms.  They need to be involved in text daily to strengthen their decoding skills which should lead to improved fluency.  However, for some of our readers this is an ongoing struggle and it begins to wear them down just a little.

One thing that I have found to be true is that you have to mix it up. I mean, who wants to feel that reading is drudgery and no fun...especially if you are in 2nd and 3rd grade and still struggling with phonics skills?  In my classroom, I start with blends and syllables, then move on to short phrases. Students practice these over and over until they feel confident that they know the word parts and short common phrases. Usually, I am working with a small group so I have them take turns flipping the cards and reading them aloud. Or I have them go around the table taking turns trying to read them quickly. At this stage, making it a game is much more engaging for them. If you need resources for this, I have both blends and syllables flashcards here and short phrases flashcards here.

Once they have mastered the first two stages - syllables and blends, and short phrases - they are ready to move on to more challenging practice. Pyramid sentences are perfect for this stage! Students love the challenge and variety of fluency practice. At first, the sentences are tongue twisters and there are lots of giggles...., then it becomes a challenge. My students would take great pride in being able to read the entire card without mistakes.  It takes practice though and that is the part they don't realize is taking place! Perfect activity - fun without drudgery.

If this sounds like an activity you would like for your struggling readers, my Pyramid Sentences will do the trick! 

Place the Pyramid Sentences in a literacy center after you have taught your students how to practice. 

 Now available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

I know these Pyramid Sentences will help you move your struggling readers to become more fluent readers!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to Get Your Students to Love Reading Without Bribery

I am always interested in new ways to encourage my students to read for enjoyment, aren't you? I would love for them to love reading and do it because it's fun....not because they will get a tangible reward. How do we do this?

I posed the following question on my Instagram and Facebook pages as well as here on my blog:

The responses were immediate and heartening......

"I started talking about the books I was reading or had just finished and my students would race to the library to grab copies".  -Mr Pearson3rd

"I have a teacher favorite box in our classroom library and all the kids are eager to read from it. Throughout the year they try to persuade me to read and put other books that they have read in the box too." -Third Grade Giggles

"Reading the books myself and suggesting that a student would totally love this book when I'm finished! Once someone hears that, immediately everyone wants to read that book!" - Rachel Vincent

"My whole approach to reading really changed after reading The Book Whisperer. I motivate kids to read by showing them I love to read! ...The 40 book challenge is a great way to allow kids to read throughout the genres and explore ones they may not even know they like yet". - The 4th Grade Fix

"I build them up a lot and say "Wow, I really respect people who read a lot."  And I say things like "I love talking about books." These sort of positive reading comments will encourage kids to talk to me at recess about books and what they're reading." - The Whimsical Teacher

"During independent reading showing them how in love with reading you are and it's contagious! When time is up, try asking, "Ok, who doesn't want to stop? I'm at such a good part!" - The Rigorous Owl

"Read only one book from a series and encourage kids to read the others. Read books yourself so that you can discuss books with kids. I spend time over the summer so that I can make recommendations. You like this, then try this book." - Marlene Olszewski, 5th grade teacher

1. "Have a bulletin board called, Caught Reading at Home. You send home a disposable camera with each student on a different day to heave them take a picture of the student reading for fun, reading to a family member, or writing about reading. You post the pics on the board. 2. Allow students to read what they want!!! Only permitting children to read only their "leveled" books is detrimental! Adults don't choose books to read that are on their reading level..otherwise I would stop reading my young adult" - Dr. Christine Hecox, 2nd grade teacher

"This year I'm going to do a book challenge, similar to what's described in The Book Whisperer. I want to make sure my students read a variety of different genres. - It Happened in 3rd

"I don't restrict them to "just right levels". I let them choose easier levels for pleasure or challenging because they want to read it." - Mindi Shelow


It's simple isn't it? All our students really want and need is to see their teachers as readers who love books. That's all. No stickers, points, candy, or toys needed. The common theme with these teachers was showing that reading is something to love and be excited about. 

So if you are frustrated because your students don't seem interested in reading for fun, try suggesting good books that you have read.  Be excited about books!

Finally, stop using "levels". Give them the space to find books they can read and if they struggle, so be it. Let them continue to search for and try good books, like adults do.

A special thanks to my expert contributors! Your insight and ideas are wonderful and confirm for me that our students don't need extrinsic motivation - they just need us! Now, I'm off to read a book that I can suggest to my 4th graders come August!  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Five for Friday - July 1st

Greetings friends! It's the first day of July and I'm back linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and all the other amazing bloggers to share what I've been up to this week! When you are done reading this quick little list - hop back over to Doodle Bugs Teaching and read on!  

In order to justify the fact that I've accomplished pretty much nothing so far this summer, I posted this to Instagram: 

So then I started feeling like a slug, so I finished these I Can ELA Posters and posted them in my TPT store.  

If you teach 4th grade and need (don't we all?) really cute chalkboard and polka dots I Can posters for ELA, here's my link: 

Personally, I like to have as many things done ahead of time, so these are for my classroom too!

So now that my productivity juices are flowing, I've decided to write a blog post about encouraging students to read for fun, not extrinsic rewards. I'm moving to 4th grade this year and one of my main goals is to focus on reading for joy, not reward.  I'm making a list of all the amazing ideas teachers use to motivate their students, so I posted this on Instagram and Facebook.  I mean where else is the collective wisdom of teachers greater?  Please share your favorite way -  I would love to include it in my post!

Today, I'm starting a book study on The Multiplier Effect by Liz Wiseman, Lois Allen, and Elise Foster. Have you heard of it?  Our little PLN at my school will be discussing this book this month.  Can't wait to learn something about tapping the genius inside our school!

Obviously reading and sunbathing go together!

Finally, I'm facing the fact that it's July 1st which means my brain will now turn to back to school (not ready!), but first we celebrate the 4th of July with family and friends!  Have a wonderful weekend and a bangin 4th!

 Love to have you follow me on Instagram! >>>      Teaching in the Heart of Florida

Don't forget to leave your reading wisdom for my blog post and link back for more amazing blog posts!