Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Secret Ingredient to Open House Success

I've been through lots of Open Houses.  The purpose of the Open House is usually to let parents know what's going on in school.  There are loads of blog posts about setting up your classroom, scavenger hunts, parent stations, brochures, and presentations.

I do all those things, leave plenty of things for parents to take with them and get to know my classroom and my procedures.

But I do something else that seems to be an added extra that makes a difference: 

I play happy music!

You know, that kind of music that just makes people feel good. 

I got this idea years ago when I went to an all day conference, and was walking into my "mid afternoon" seminar with dread: it's a tough time of day, and I was feeling like I'd prefer to take a nap.

When I walked into the room, the presenter was playing "happy music". I don't remember the specific song, but I remember it made me feel like moving.

I immediately felt a smile on my face, and I looked around the room and everyone else was smiling and moving to the music. 

Research tells us music can affect our feelings. 
So I play "happy music" to help people feel good about my classroom.

It works!

What music makes you feel happy?

This post is part of the Bright Ideas Blog Hop for August.

If you like my ideas, feel free to follow me:
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Five Freebies for Back to School!

I'm almost ready! Our meetings start Monday, I meet my kids Tuesday night at our Open House, and Wednesday morning it all begins! Although I'm certainly sad to see the summer vacation come to a close, I just can't wait to meet the kiddos and get them started on their second grade year!
I thought I'd share some of the things that will help me through that first couple of weeks!

This freebie is a great way to start the year in Science and Social Studies:

This one will help the kiddos get all those summertime wiggles out!

Here's a freebie to help start working on math fact fluency!

I use these phrases to help the kiddos warm up for reading groups. These help build fluency!

Here's some more Social Studies and Science fun for those leftover summertime wiggles

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My First Day of School Promise

Every year, I sit down with my brand new class and have a little chat about why we come to school. My second graders figure it out right away: we come to school to learn.

That's when I make my yearly promise. 

I'm very dramatic when I make the promise. I include dramatic pauses, and I make the same gestures whenever I say it. 

I move my right hand outward as I say the first part, then I move my left hand outward as I say the second part. It goes like this:

These phrases are used all year long, and I repeat the gestures each time. After a while, I don't even have to say the words, I just do the gestures, and the kiddos realize they need to put the effort into their learning.

Of course, I make a point to keep that promise!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

September Resources

Wow, it's almost September! I've been so busy unpacking my classroom and getting ready for those first couple of days, I haven't had time to think about what to do those next few weeks! 

Well, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, and I'm here to make your life easier!

If you're just starting school, try these Math and Literacy No Prep Printables with a Back to School theme. These are designed for beginning second graders to review and strengthen important skills in a fun way. It includes learning games, word work, comprehension work and writing practice. To see this resource, click the image or click HERE.

Although it may seem summer's over, we still have a couple of weeks until it's officially Autumn, but I'll be ready with these Fall No Prep Printables!  Just like the Back to School Set, it's second grade appropriate skills with a fun theme and fun activities! The kiddos love these activities, and don't even realize they're strengthening their skills! They work great if you're pulled for a meeting or are testing individuals and need something quiet, but engaging and valuable for the others to be working on. (That happens a lot this time of year!) Click the image or click HERE to see this resource!

Here's a little something else to make your life easier, and a resource that I'm very excited about: Science and Social Studies Printables for August and September! 

This set is all about making your life easier, and still being able to find time for those fun Science and Social Studies topics that come up early in the school year: Class Rules, bees, pollination, sunflowers, the Autumnal Equinox, and Constitution Day! Less time with preparation gives you more time to enjoy the learning!  Click the above image or click HERE to see this resource!

The best part? 
These three items will be on sale starting today for 3 days only!
Make your life easier! 
More time to enjoy your students!

Be sure to check out more September deals in this linky!

Thanks to Amanda from Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals for setting up this September linky!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Science and Engineering Practices

Last week, I met with the New Hampshire STEM Innovation Network. The governor of our state declared 2015 The Year of STEM, and so this group of New Hampshire teachers was formed. 

I must say, I feel very lucky to be part of this innovative group. It consists of 13 elementary through high school teachers who are interested in bring STEM experiences into our classroom.

 We spent 2 days discussing the value of STEM and how it relates to education in the 21st century. My head was spinning by the end of the first day. By the end of the second day, my mind was mush! (But in a good way!)

I feel a number of blog posts coming from these discussions, but I first of all, I wanted to share the Science and Engineering Practices.

After a few years with Common Core, I'm sure you'll remember the Standards of Mathematics Practices.  See HERE to jump start your memory. If you recall, these practices apply to all grade levels, and all math learning. 

The Science and Engineering Practices are straight from the Next Generation Science Standards. The whole appendix dedicated to these practices can be found HERE. As with the math practices, these Science and Engineering Practices apply to all grade levels. Here they are:

HERE's a nice article I found that discusses each of these practices from the science and engineering point of view, for the different levels from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve. 

As I discussed these practices with my STEM Innovation Network, we came to the same conclusion: 

These aren't just Science and Engineering Skills, 
they are LIFE Skills!

These are the skills we should be teaching our students.

Even if it's not on the test!

These practices can be embedded in many activities across the curriculum, can't they? 

As a second grade teacher, our priorities are building the foundation: teaching the important skills of reading, writing and math. (As they say: K-2 Learn to Read, Grades 3 and up, Read to Learn!)

Science and Engineering aren't a priority yet, but it's a strong area of interest for the kids! These practices are something we should be sharing regularly when we can fit them into our day.

How do you embed these Science and Engineering Practices into your school day?  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back to School Shopping Begins!

Are you ready to do some shopping? 
As the calendar turns to August, I'm starting to think about going back to school! Yep, I'm dreading the end of summer, but starting to look forward to meeting the new crop! I've got loads o new ideas I'm excited about!

One way to get back in the mood for school?  Go shopping!

Some of my blogging friends and I are linking up to share some great stuff that will be on sale at Teachers Pay Teachers on Monday and Tuesday this week! (Aug. 4 and 5)

First, I want to share my most popular item!
Figurative Language for Illustrating
There are SOOOOO many reasons why letting children illustrate is a good idea! The main reason: studies show it helps make connections in the brain, which helps the learning stick! (Plus, it makes an awesome class book!)

See THIS POST for more information about illustrating with children.

Here's a resource I start using at the beginning of the school year to set those basic math facts: Brain Friendly Addition and Subtraction Fact Practice and Assessment.  Since I started using this sequence 2 years ago, I've seen HUGE improvements in math fact fluency in my students!
This resource comes with explanations on how to use, games, suggestions, and brain breaks.

It also comes with practice cards and assessments for 8 different categories, which are color coded. This is the first set, red, the +1 families.

Each additional color category has review assessments which combine all the previous colors along with the present one they've worked on. This is the blue set: the +10 families. I find most kids take a couple of weeks to master each color. It's easy to differentiate, as each child can easily work on their own color, or practice with someone else on the same color. 

When they master all of them? Then they move on to the multiplication and division set!

For more information about using brain research to learn math facts, see THIS POST.

Want to see more Back to School Resources? Go to my store HERE. Look for the list of categories on the left, then click August. There's all my back to school stuff!

Of course, there's plenty more great Back to School Resources! See the linky below for more great examples!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Currently It's August

Gulp! How can it be August? My beautiful summer vacation is almost over!

I'm trying to get my head in mode for back to school. I don't start with kids until the end of the month, but I have a whole lot of work to do in my classroom before they arrive! Then there are those teacher work days where we don't get time to work in our classrooms...

I'm trying not to stress! I'm trying to relax on my last few days!

But it's time for Currently!
Listening - I've seen every episode of Friends several times, but it's good background stuff while I'm working. I don't have to really pay attention.

Loving - I'm sooooooo enjoying these last few days.

Thinking - There's a sale on Teachers Pay Teachers coming up. I'm trying not to spend too much, but my wishlist is huge!

Wanting - Have I mentioned I don't want summer to end?

Needing -  I've been working on my computer pretty much not stop the last couple of days. I really need to get some exercise. I thought about going to the gym, but it didn't happen!

B2S RAK -  I feel like I'm copping out on the B2S RAK, but I just can't force myself to think about school yet. I'm thinking about it, but not too much. I'm just thinking about the fun part, shopping!

Be sure to stop in to see Farley's Currently for August!

Thursday, July 30, 2015


My giveaway has ended, and 3 people have won copies of this resource:

Congratulations to Cindy, Sheri, and Stephanie!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you didn't win, no need to fret! You can purchase a copy HERE!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain!

Some of my blogging friends and I wanted to get together and celebrate Back to School books! 

Please don't cringe at those words Back to School. People in my neck of the woods don't have to even think about setting up our classrooms for a couple more weeks, but there are people out there who are actually ALREADY back at school! The school schedules all over the world are quite different, but it's all ok. If you're not ready for Back to School, just bookmark (or pin) this post until you're ready.
Click the book image for a link to Amazon!

For my Back to School book, I have chosen Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. It's appropriate for kids K-3.

If you've ever read my blog before, you'll know that I am absolutely fascinated by the brain and how it works. 

This book explains how the brain works in kid-friendly language! 
It tells the specific parts of the brain and the specific jobs they have, and how each brain is different, which makes us all uniquely different. 

I particularly love the part that discusses things that kids have learned, such as playing soccer, that were hard at first, but with practice, got easier! They might have even made mistakes, but the mistakes helped them learn!

If that's all it were about, this book could be used any time of year. The reason this makes a great beginning of the year book is because it tells the reader they can stretch their own brain

Who wouldn't want to stretch their brain? 

Isn't that our job as teachers? To stretch their brains?
(I refuse to believe that our job is to have the kiddos score well on tests!)

I feel it's our job as teachers to teach the children to be better learners,  and to stretch their brains as much as they can!  

That leads me to this freebie, based on this awesome book.

It has some activities to let the children tell what's already in their brain, plus a chance to challenge their brains a bit more! Click the image or click HERE for the link to the freebie! Enjoy!

If you like this post, be sure to join in with my blogging friends below to see more Back to School books, along with freebies to go with them!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Squeeze in Social Studies and Science

Teaching is harder than ever these days!

I'm about to start my 39th year teaching. Honestly, it's a lot harder now than it was back in the 70s when I started! Luckily, experience has taught me a whole lot, and I have a repertoire of tricks up my sleeve.

Nowadays we have to individualize everything! We have to keep evidence folders, and post learning targets based on Common Core or College and Career Ready standards.  We have to pre-test, post test, follow a prescribed program, teach specific subjects at specific times, and somehow get these kids to learn! We need to make sure we are on the same page (literally!) as the others who teach our grade, and now somehow,we are evaluated based on the tests, no matter what kids we get or what subjects we teach! Many of us lack support from administration, parents, and the government! Phys. Ed, Music, and recess are being taken out of the day, and more kids than ever have learning problems and behavioral challenges.

Yet, believe it or not, there are many of us who still choose to teach.

I find Social Studies and Science are the toughest areas to find time to teach. Finding time squeeze it in is difficult, and finding time to prepare materials is close to impossible. 

I'm here to make your job a tiny bit easier!

If you follow my blog, you know that I've studied brain research, and l have become very focused on how the brain learns. 

Here are some fun ways to "sneak in" those subjects that the children love, but hardly get to participate in because of the demands of the beginning of the year:

1. Morning Meeting! Squeeze in a social studies topic into Morning Meeting. "On your turn, name something you'd see in an urban community." or "Name one of the planets."

2. Lining Up! Line them up with a fact.  "Before you get into line for lunch, stop and tell a friend the 4 stages in the life cycle of a honeybee." or "Tell a friend the name of one of the oceans."

3. Brain Breaks! Take a brain break with a purpose. "You are a Coastguards man guarding our border along the Atlantic Ocean and need to check out an incoming boat. Speed your ship over and greet the visitors." or "Imagine you are a honeybee in the pupa stage, trying to get out of your cell."

4. Connect to Something Bigger! When developing the rules for your classroom: "The Constitution of the United States is a set of rules developed by citizens of the country. You are citizens of this classroom. What rules should we have for our citizens?" (Of course, when you decide on rules, you can make a copy for the class and have them sign it with a fancy pen!) or "I wonder if farmers measure their plant growth like we do."

5. Calendar Time! Mention upcoming Social Studies or Science days during calendar time. "How many days until the Autumnal Equinox?" or "On what day of the week is Constitution Day?"

6. Read Aloud! Read books about your Science and Social Studies topics (fiction and non-fiction), then stop and chat about them! "Do all spiders have an egg sack like Charlotte did?" or "In what sort of community does Noel live? What were your clues?"

7. Keep maps and globes handy! Whenever any place is mentioned in a book, video, or just in passing, I'll grab the map or globe and find it! "Your dad is on business in Singapore? Let's find it on the map. Wow, that's on the other side of the earth! They must be sleeping now!" As the year progresses, whenever a place is mentioned, the kids will call out, "Get the globe!" (It's also a good idea to leave maps and globes available for the kids to browse. I've heard some awesome conversations about places around the world while kids are waiting for the bus at the end of the day!)

I've been very busy working on a resource for my own students that will help me through the beginning of the year, and I'm ready to share it with you!

It's got 9 different "ready to go" activities for Social Studies and Science for the beginning of the school year! Click image or click HERE for link.
I also have a freebie sample available HERE.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Getting Parents to Read Your Notes

I'm sure we've all been there: a note gets sent home, and it's never seen!

Parents are incredibly busy. It's a tough job. But somehow we've got to get them to read those notes!

Here are a few tricks:

I send home a newsletter once a week in my classroom. I always write a personal note to each parent on each newsletter. It goes home on Friday, and I ask them to sign them and return them on Monday.

Sound crazy?  They are quick notes, and it's a definite investment in time: it pays off... it establishes a line of communication!  

How do I entice them to get in the habit of reading those weekly notes?

How to get the kids involved? 

I make sure I write a positive note about that child, and make sure the child knows about it! They'll go home and beg their parents to read it!

Here are a few examples:
Once you get the parents in the habit of checking the newsletter each week, they'll look forward to the notes. 

Of course, the notes are ALMOST always positive, but if something comes up during the week, you can be reasonably sure that note will be noticed, because you established the routine right away!

I hope you enjoyed this bright idea! Feel free to follow me on these social media:


And be sure to check out the links below for more awesome bright ideas!

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