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Set Up a Happy New Year in the Classroom

Involve Your Students in Creating A Happy New Year  in the Classroom

As we head back to school after the Christmas break, it is important to set our students up for success in 2017 and truly create “A Happy New Year” in our classroom. To do so our kiddos will need some reminders about the citizenship qualities and behaviors that help make the class a safe place for learning. We know this as teachers, but the question is, how do we make the message stick?
How about getting the kids involved in the process?  One way would be to show this example of a multi-media presentation that reminds students of those qualities. Still, just watching may not be enough. But could we use this presentation as an engaging starter to having the kids get really involved in their own plan? How about using this presentation as an example, and then having them work Ho.
Let your students decide which behaviors they see has worthy of highlighting in their presentation and give them clear criteria that they will have to back up their choices. The result? You’ll most likely see a real difference in your classroom as your students internalize the “reasons for the rules”. Doing this presentation to “teach” younger students or for younger grades would provide even more incentive and purpose to the project.
Here’s how I would set up the lesson:
  1. Get them excited that they are going to start the year off by creating an engaging multi-media presentation that will help teach other students about the citizenship qualities and behaviors that will help make the classroom/school a safe and caring place for all.
  2. Show them the example presentation, “How to Be a Great Student
  3. Brainstorm with the class a list of possible slides/topics that could be included
  4. Share with your students the criteria of what you are looking for in their presentations (how they will be evaluated – see attached rubric for an idea)
  5. Break students into small groups – assign roles within the groups if needed, and have them get started on their story mapping out their slides on paper first.
  6. Then go to the computer lab, or arrange for small group computer/chromebook access within the classroom to put their slides together.
  7. Set a time line and schedule a day for the presentations. Also, ask permission for your students to be able to share their presentations with the other classes for whom the presentations were made.
Let’s this multi-media presentation to help them create a Happy New Year in the classroom and you might be a winner, too! Click on the link below to grab the presentation and find out more.
Two lucky winners will be selected. Sign up now for How to be a Great Student presentation. It is never too late to be a great student.
Lesson Plan by Sharon Skretting
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3 Ways to Use Technology to Build Relationships with Your Students

4249170516_b7c72a309a_nIf someone were to ask you, what would you say is the number one thing that makes you an effective teacher?

One word makes all the difference. Relationship.

Oh, I know, I need to be tough in the first half of the year so I will have control of my class, right? Wrong! I am not teaching robots. I am teaching children. They do not look the same, act the same, or have the same likes and dislikes. Some like pizza with pineapple, while others spit it out. There’s the class clown, the shy one who will never ask a question, and the one who constantly trips over his own feet. I love them all. It is not my job to control them so they will learn. It’s my job to watch each of them, get to know them and find out what makes them tick. With each, I need to develop the kind of relationship that builds a bridge of trust between us. They need to know I am here for them and I am always on their side. Then, they can take risks in my classroom. Then, they can learn.

“Wait a minute,” you say . “I thought this post was about technology. What does technology have to do with relationship?”
Stay tuned. In today’s world we need to use every available tool to inspire our students. Here are three tech tools that I love because they help me know my students better and communicate with them more effectively even outside to the classroom.

1. Email: even though I teach elementary school, writing emails back and forth with my students, not only teaches them a valuable technology skill. It also allows them to ask me questions they might be afraid to tell me in class. It gives them a voice to tell me about things that are troubling them. Perhaps they are getting bullied or are nervous about their grades. I’ve had students share these kinds of things with me via email and it provides me great insight so I can help them deal with the problem. The one-on-one nature of email lends itself to some privacy in conversation which allows students to feel they can share.

2. Evernote: As you can tell by my previous posts, I’m a bit of an Evernote FREAK! I love the way I can set up student notebooks and collect assessments to build a profile for their learning. In addition to assessment, Evernote also allows me to collect tidbits of information that I think will interest my students. For example, if I know that one of my students is interested in horses, I can easily capture and keep articles, photos, web games, etc. That I think will interest that child. Then I can show them quickly and easily. I can also share the notes by email with the student and their parents. Just another beam supporting the bridge of trust.Evernotestudentinterest

3. Kidblog: I love Kidblog! Kidblog gives kids a reason to write. Beyond class writing assignments, students can research and share their interests, just like real bloggers do! Kidblog allows you, the teacher, to have your kids give and receive feedback in a safe environment. You control who can and cannot comments as well as the privacy of the posts. Best of all, you can access their posts anywhere so you can interact with their posts at home on your laptop. I have learned so much about my students by reading their Kidblog posts. We’ve also had the chance to connect with other classes around the world, which provides even greater reason for Kids to write! I can’t say enough about the benefits of getting your class on Kidblog.kidblogpage

There you have it, three ways to connect with kids on a personal level, beyond the classroom. Of course with each of these tools there is the added benefit of teaching them about safe on-line practices and etiquette.
If you want to know more about any of these, I’m here and I’d love to help! Shoot me a message via Facebook, Twitter, email or in the comments below. Do you have any favourite tech tools that help you build stronger relationships with students? I’d love to hear about them.
Best,
Sharon

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photo credit: A teacher looks at a student’s work via photopin (license)

Exciting Classroom Presentations with Evernote

logo200Last week I shared how to use Evernote for unit planning. Now it’s time to turn our efforts into great classroom lessons! Believe or not, Evernote can help with that, too!
Remember all the great resources you gathered for your unit by using the handy, dandy web clipper to save sites, videos, articles, etc? Now it’s time to present those resources to your students in your lesson plan. Evernote has a great little feature that allows you to do the teaching right from your Evernote notebook. It’s called the presentation mode and it’s so easy to use. When you’re in your Evernote workspace, just open up the note you want and click on the presenter icon that looks like this:presentericon You’ll find it in the upper toolbar.

Wallah! You are now in presenter mode and can present the document, web page or whatever else you’ve clipped. While in presentation mode, you have the following choices in the settings at the top right of the screen:

  •  blue, red/pink or green pointer
  •  Light (white) or dark(black) background
  • change the size of the text in your presentation
    Check out this video to see the presentation mode in action.

There you have it!  Evernote can help you gather resources, organize them, and present them with ease. I hope this tutorial proves helpful to you in bringing exciting learning opportunities to your students. Sharing is caring!  If you found this helpful please share with other teachers, or homeschoolers that might benefit.

Questions? Anything, I’m here to help and would love to hear from you.

Best,

Sharon

Easy Steps to a Differentiated Spelling Program

25waysspellingfunEach September I begin by asking my students why we write? I want them to fully understand that the basic purpose of writing is to communicate our ideas. Grasping this concept is a step in the right direction to having them want to improve their skills.  After all, if they work at developing good writing skills, it will be easier for them to get their message across.

This leads us to the spelling issue. In this day and age of spellcheckers and technology, do we really need to focus on spelling in school?  The answer is yes. Poor spelling leads to miscommunication, so I use an example of poor spelling to get my point across.  After seeing the difference that spelling makes to the clarity of a message, students are eager to improve their skills, but the traditional spelling list does little to actually help them achieve their goals. The trick is tailoring the spelling instruction to individual needs of students.  This is a summary of how I differentiate to meet the spelling instruction needs of my students. I hope it will help you meet the needs of your students, too.

  At the end of these lessons, you will be able to:

*identify and share the different purposes for writing

*identify improving spelling as a way to better communicate in writing

*identify and apply common spelling generalizations in own writing

Write this message to your students on the board or pop this picture up on your smart board.  Turn and talk with an elbow partner:spellingexemplar

Why was it difficult to read the message?

In a whole-group discussion, share the problems with the message: spelling, punctuation, printing.

What would you do to improve the message?

Give students a copy of the message and see if they can work with a partner to make it better.

Hand out new notebooks that the students will use to improve their spelling of the words they don’t know. Label the book with “My Spelling Words to Study”.

Explain to the students that we all have different spelling skills, just like we all wear different shoe sizes. That’s why we all need to work at learning to spell different words, but first we need to know which words we need to work on.

Follow up with a test of the top 300-500 (depending on grade level) high-frequency words. It may take several sessions to complete this diagnostic assessment. I usually give about 50 words at a time. Higher grades may want to use words  500+. I recommend using Rebecca Sitton’s Spelling Sourcebook

After each test, mark the student’s work and circle each misspelled word and write the correct spelling word beside the misspelled word.

Following the tests, have students transfer the first ten of the correct spelling of the words they need to know to their “Words to Study” list included in this package. We will repeat this each week from the 300 words. After that, I will give a new test of the next 100 high-frequency words and/or use the “problem words from their writing”. Students now have an individualized list of words that they need to work from during the year. Each week they will work on these words during their word work time using a variety of generic spelling games and study activities which have been taught.

For home practice,  I give students a recording sheet to make their lists each week.  This is how I set mine up:

Each week the students will refer to their “Words to Study” list to make their spelling list to study for that week. If you are teaching specific spelling patterns each week, you may have them choose five words from the list and five words from the spelling pattern you are currently studying. They make two copies of the list.  One that goes home to study and one that stays at school for the peer test that students give each other later in the week. If students do not spell every word on their  “Word Work/Spelling List Record Sheet” correctly, they must transfer the words they got incorrect, to next week’s list  and continue to do so until they have mastered them. Each week that they master their list, they get a coin for their “Master Spellers” certificate. At the beginning of the year,  I also send home the “25 Ideas” in two page protectors. Students can post these on their fridge for fun ways to practice their words at home.easyspelling25ways

Vital to student success and growth in spelling will be the provision of many goal-setting conferences to identify successes in improved spelling in their writing.  The connection between good spelling skills and clarity of written messages needs to be continually reinforced during these teacher-student conversations.  These conferences should go a long way towards helping students see that their efforts are resulting in progress toward their better spelling and communication goals.

On in my TPT store, I put together a complete package for you to help get you started. In it,  I tried to include everything you’ll need for your word work program this year. Included in this package you’ll find:

easystepsmultisheet* My Word to Study Listwordstostudypic

*Student Spelling List Record Sheets

* Student Spelling test sheets

* Word Work Activity Ideas

* “Master Speller” coin collector student sheet

I hope this is a valuable resource for you in providing a differentiated spelling program for the students in your classroom. The whole package is on sale this week to give you a chance to get it, and try it, for an introductory low price.  Check it out here:

EASY STEPS DIFFERENTIATED SPELLINGcoins

Questions? I’d love to hear from you. What do you do in your classroom to differentiate instruction for students?

Best,

Sharon

Inspire Us and We Will Inspire Others

The sign at the front of our school reads:

Include Us and We Will Understand, Inspire Us and We Will Inspire Others

As educators, I believe that each of us aspire to be a role-model and a source of inspiration for our students. Today I’d like to share with you the story of one teacher who more than achieves this goal. Maybe her story will incite you to keep on making every effort to inspire your students.

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Ms. Barnes with Gabriel, just one of her many students.

A young boy stands waiting in the wings, legs shaking as his name is announced through loudspeakers. His palms run up and down the sides of his thighs, trying to keep them dry.  This is the moment he’s been thinking about, preparing for, and anticipating for months.  Here it is.  Is he ready?

You can do this, you’ve got this,  he hears her encouraging words repeating over and over in his head. His shoulders rise in a deep breath as he shakes his hands at his sides one last time.   The adrenaline forces his legs up the stairs, onto the stage and over to the mic.  The audience stares, waiting. Panic. Can he do this?  Another deep breath and a shake of his hands to calm his nerves. He spins around to see her sitting there, behind her keyboard.  She smiles, gives him a nod, and mouths the words, “You’ve got this!”  He nods and the music plays. In that moment, all the hours of preparation come together and his performance takes flight.

As his ears fill with applause and cheers, he takes a bow, knowing that he will never forget this moment. Exiting the stage, he glances back at the one who believed in him, and gave him the wings to soar. This smile is just for her, his mentor, his teacher, and his inspiration. She smiles back and bows. Her pride in his performance written all over her face.  But this night, and this moment, didn’t just happen. It is the culmination of vision and sacrifice.

Rewind three months:

FullSizeRender-2

Waiting to perform at the gala!

The anticipated event is the annual Fine Arts Gala.  Each year a dedicated group of educators in our school put on the event to help celebrate the fine arts talents of the students at our elementary school. The evening is billed as a fancy gala. It’s really quite a sight to see; tickets sold to raise money for a charity of choice, h’orderves served by students dressed in their finest, tables and walls filled with the stunning art of students. Yet, the event’s appeal goes well beyond the atmosphere and display; the gala performances are some of the most anticipated events of the year.

The crowd will take their seats, the lights will dim, and the spotlight will shine on each young star.  And who is in the background, hiding behind the keyboard, making sure that each student has that spotlight for the evening? Ms. Barnes, that’s who.  For the last three months there’s been practices sessions with students every recess break, and after school. If one would take note, many youngsters would’ve be seen going to her home to practice into the evening hours. Her commitment doesn’t end there.  Hours of planning and preparation are put in by Ms. Barnes and her committee: meetings, contacting parents, labelling and mounting art, setting up displays, decorating, sound equipment, lights, readying the stage and making sure everything is perfect. All must be ready for the special evening. Ms. Barnes leads her committee to make sure it is.1427464822386

Why?  Because Ms. Barnes loves music and art, but most of all, she loves her students!  Whether it’s for the Fine Arts Gala, Christmas concert, or the annual spring musical, her love is evident and played out in the countless hours she donates freely to encourage, inspire and give her students wings.  In an age when the importance of the arts may sometimes be downplayed, Ms. Barnes seeks to inspire her young students to have no fear when it comes to sharing their talents with the world. She’s not only an extraordinary keyboardist, piano player and teacher; she’s a mentor.  By giving her students wings, she hopes that they, in turn, will inspire others to share their gifts. Watching the dedication and love she gives freely, inspires me to be a better teacher, too.  Thank you, Ms. Barnes for sharing your gifts with all of us!

Want to set up a Fine Arts Gala to inspire the students in your school? Feel free to contact me for more information about how.  Here are the steps we follow to put on the FA Gala at our school:1427421999023

1) Set up auditions.  Students must be committed to a giving a practiced well rehearsed performance. If they don’t practice, they don’t perform.

2) Art club: teachers on the committee agree to supervise art club once/week and guide students to put sketches into the gala.  They are provided with pencils, a sketchbook, and an art eraser.  They will choose one best piece that they want to enter. That will be mounted and displayed in the gala with their name.

3) Open up and supervise the music room for practice and feedback times during recesses and lunch hours.

4) Enlist the older students as servers for the evening.

5) Get the help of  parents to make h’orderves ahead of time and bring them to school on the date.

6) Have classes contribute class art projects to the gala displays.

7) Arrange for sound equipment and someone to do sound for the evening (we have the high school band teacher  help out with this.)

8) Invite other schools to participate.  Our high school student contribute both art and performances for the evening.

Finally, the preparation is done. It’s time to sit back,  and watch the students fly! It really is inspiring!

Listen to Ms. Barnes in action! Here she is working (playing and providing harmony) with a young student, inspiring her to love music and performing.