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## I played a game with my students this week, since we were studying even and odd numbers.

I remember doing this activity as a child.
I don't remember what we called it.

I don't remember much about it at all, so I shared with my students what I remembered, and made up the rest.

## Here's how we did it.

1 .Children chose partners.
2. The partners decided who would represent even, and who would represent odd.
3. Players stood facing each other with one hand behind their back.
4. One partner said, "One, two, three, shoot!"
5. On "shoot," each player shoots out 0, 1, or 2 fingers.
6. Both players determine if the total fingers is even or odd, and that player gets a point for that round.
7. Play continues until time runs out, with players keeping track of how many points for "even" or "odd."
A more advanced version: use up to 5 fingers for each draw.
Another way: use dice, add them, odd or even gets a point. They can keep tallies on a whiteboard to keep score.  Playing cards would work, too!

## All my games end with a handshake and the words, "good game!"

I had all my students playing with partners at the same time. Of course, I had to join in the fun since I have an odd number of students. We now play this game often as part of our Morning Meeting or as a Math warm up!

## I am committed to reading aloud to my students daily.

Not only is it my very favorite time of day, but there are so many benefits of reading aloud to kids.

## Here are some advantages of reading aloud to children:

1. It's a shared literacy experience within the classroom community.
2. It's a great way to model important reading concepts like understanding characters, using inference skills, predicting, and more!
3. It's a great way to model phrasing and fluent reading.
4. Read Alouds are like an advertisement for books! Ever notice how the kids want to read a book right after you read it to them? Or perhaps another book in the series?
5. Read Alouds develop a child's vocabulary.
6. Shared books are a great way to model writing skills!
7. Shared books are a great way to spark discussion about sensitive subjects.
8. Children learn language patterns and figurative language through Read Alouds.
9. When you have multiple reading levels in your classroom (which most of us do!) it "evens the playing field."
10. Reading aloud helps build attention spans.
11. It's a chance to "think aloud" to model decoding new words using context clues.
12. It's a great opportunity to bring literature into other subjects like Science, Social Studies, Mathematics, and even Music, Art, and Phys. Ed!
13. Reading aloud encourages thinking and using imagination.
14. Reading aloud helps children learn about the world. Not just their own world, but other places, cultures, time periods, and even fictional worlds.
15. It's fun!

## Looking to get families involved? Enjoy this resource!

What books do you like to read aloud to children?
What other advantages to reading aloud can you name?

### Pass the Clap - A Fun Game for Team Building!

A couple of years ago, I learned a fun circle game called "Pass the Clap". My kiddos really love it, and it's got many benefits!

1. It's a nice break from the regular routine.
2. It helps the children learn to work together.
3. It forces them to focus and concentrate on each other, and the game.
4. It's been known to create giggling children.
5. It works well with all ages, preschool through adult!

If you don't believe #4 is a benefit, you'll have to read THIS post about how laughter is healthy!

## So here's how to play:

To pass the clap, you must make eye contact with the "clap receiver", then clap.
That person passes the clap to the next person, and so on.

## There are a few varieties. We start simple.

1. Pass the clap, one by one, all the way around the circle.
2. Pass it around the circle, then reverse and bring the clap back to the starting point.

My students like to time how fast it takes for the clap to get around the circle. Then we time it again and see if we beat our previous time. (Which usually brings a celebration!)

## A couple more variations:

3. Anyone can change the direction! This certainly livens things up!
4. The clap can be passed across the circle.

This last variation really requires focus and concentration, and plenty of team work! The children do rise for the occasion, and it's totally amazing!

Side note: some people don't care for the name of this game. Feel free to change it. Since I work with little ones, the name is not offensive and it's very clear.

If you like this team building game, try some of these: 60 Team Building Games and Activities.

### Building Social Skills and Academics with Morning Meeting!

I am so thrilled with my schedule this year! Last year my students had RTI first thing in the morning, so I was never able to spend mornings with them. They came in, dropped off their stuff, and ran off to their Tier 2 assigned groups. This made it tough to build relationships with my students, and build community within my group.

This year, the children stay in the classroom in the morning, and we are encouraged to start our day with Morning Meeting!

## Most typical Morning Meetings have these parts:

1. Greeting
2. Sharing
3. Group Activity
4. Morning Message

There are many ways to do each part, and hundreds of references for ideas, but here are a couple:

## Why do Morning Meeting?

Morning Meeting helps build social and emotional skills. It builds community and helps children learn to work as a team. It helps children develop a positive tone to their day, and affects their focus and productivity for the rest of the school day. Morning Meeting helps establish a climate of trust and motivates students to feel significant. It builds relationships with classmates and teachers.

Looking for some ideas for the group activity? Try these:60 Team Building Games and Activities for Classrooms.

I did Morning Meetings ages ago (I'd estimate 20+ years!) but I haven't been able to do it recently, so it's like starting over. I'd love to hear what other teachers do during their morning meetings!

### I've Got This!

I'm trying to muster up all my courage and all my stamina, because I'm about to run a marathon!

After a fabulous summer with lots of rest, relaxation, and good times, I'm going back to school.

I'm looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, and I'm really excited about my schedule this year!

Plus, I get to meet my kids tomorrow night at the Open House!

And I get to have them in my class starting Wednesday!

This year will be tough (they all have been, in some ways!) but I'm trying to be positive and look forward to the year.

After all, I can't be on summer vacation forever!
(But I sure will miss staying in jammies until noon!)

I've been giving myself a lot of "coaching"... kind, encouraging words.  I thought perhaps you could use some, too.

## This is from my Dad, the football coach. I say this to myself often!

Every time I get stressed about how much we have to teach and how little time we have to teach it: (the visual works for me, too!)

As above, I do get stressed! (I suspect we all do!)

Being a fan of the arts, I love this quote from John Steinbeck!

## This is my own quote. You could sort of say it's my mission!

Just a little reminder how important it is to build bonds with the children!

## Have a great school year!

### My "Not So Cute" Classroom

They're all over the internet this time of year: Those sweet, adorable classrooms with perfectly matched accessories and delightfully painted shelves, and cleverly decorated bulletin boards.  I admit, I love looking at the pictures of the "Pinterest worthy" classrooms, and imagine what it might be like with one of those classrooms. Seriously, if I win the lottery, I'll use some of the money to hire a decorator for my classroom.

My classroom doesn't look like these. First of all, I don't have the "decorator's eye" that these teachers have. Second of all, I don't have time to sand, paint, and decorate all the furniture in matching colors. Nor do I have the money. (Did I mention I was a single parent, still recovering from sending my daughter to college?) Third of all, I just don't have the time, since I'm busy teaching!

## My classroom is real.

It has furniture I have inherited over 40 years of teaching.

Here are a couple of my chairs, both held together with duct tape. The top one is usually hidden by my desk, where I rarely sit, but couldn't live without, since it's where I pile everything! The bottom chair is a classic. It's one of the few adult chairs where my feet actually reach the floor. It looked great a couple of years ago when I covered it with duct tape. And over the years, it has earned the nickname, "The Drop Chair!" Seriously, anyone who sits in it eventually drops stuff!

You can see a corner of my desk here, nothing fancy. I went out and bought these cheap, plastic, white shelves, and have several throughout the classroom. They're not very sturdy, but I need the space. (I'm not completely unpacked yet, these are usually much more crowded with "overflow" from my desk!) Thankfully, these white shelves lighten up the classroom, and offer plenty of space!

Speaking of shelves, most of mine don't match. At the top, are some second hand metal shelves. Yes, they make noise when the kids bump into them. No, they're not all the same color. But if you look closely, you'll see all my kids' book boxes match, and I've got tons of great books!

My file cabinets.
No, the green one doesn't lock.
Neither do the others.
But they hold my stuff!

The door doesn't work on my closet.
When you turn the knob, two metal pieces just clang together. When I shut it, I have to tuck it in.
But it still holds my "job chart" just fine!

My rug was in another classroom before I got it.
It has holes from pencils, and "permadirt".
But it's still a comfortable place to sit and listen to stories and lessons.
My easel is new to me this year, but not new to the school. I have yet to get the 3 legs even. It's probably the only whiteboard easel in the school that is NOT magnetic. But it holds chart paper!

My desks don't match. They are covered in "permadirt" and scratches. The chairs don't match and aren't all good sizes for the kids I have. The legs aren't adjustable, so some kids will have legs swinging and others will barely fit their legs under their desks.
But I have enough desks for them all!

I have a number of shelves and tables throughout the classroom. None of them match, they could use a good sanding and painting or staining. But luckily I have plenty of places to put games, books, supplies, and, of course, children.

I'm still working on my classroom, and it's going to look a whole lot better than it does now. But I've learned not to compare my "hand me down" classroom with those "Pinterest worthy" classrooms.

## Why?

Because that's not what it's all about! Teaching is about the kids. We make the best of all we have, and my focus is always on the kids. I plan to keep them so busy learning and having fun that they won't even notice that our furniture isn't the best!

## I had a very challenging class a few years ago!

I admit, I loved each and every one of them, but the combination of kiddos really was exhausting. I had behavior challenges, learning challenges, and a whole lot of kiddos who needed to talk and who needed to move a whole lot! They needed plenty of attention, and plenty of opportunities to let off steam.

I've had all these challenges before, but I never had so many challenges all in one group!

After that year, I made sure I enjoyed these luxuries during the summer:

-extra cups of coffee - while they're still warm
-relaxed conversations with grown-ups
-eating breakfast in my jammies
-going to the gym, with the energy to work out
and most of all...
-peeing when I need to!

But I also spent a lot of time thinking about that group, and trying to come up with ideas that I could start at the beginning of the year that could prevent some of the issues I had.

## My dad always taught me:

and that's just what I planned to do!

After much thought, I decided on the most important strategies I wanted to focus on in my classroom.

I decided to spend a whole lot of time at the beginning of the school year teaching these strategies for success!

## I made posters with an explanation for each strategy.

I made one for each of the six strategies, and made strategy response booklets for the children to write their thoughts.

## Be safe

Be respectful!

Be responsible!

Be a team player

Be mindful!

Be an active learner!

As you can see, the posters are available in color as well as black and white for the kids to color and think about.

Plus, there are other items to share with the children:

These posters for bulletin boards, student "strategy response booklets, and bookmarks help internalize the concepts of each strategy!

I have students complete self-assessments quarterly, usually just before report cards or parent conferences. If their assessment doesn't match mine, we have a talk!

These pages could also be used in interactive notebooks.

My plan was to take a day or two discussing the meaning of each strategy, listing the children's ideas, giving examples and non-examples, and making sure the children really understood what each strategy meant before they completed that page in their strategy response booklets.

The Mindfulness strategy took a little longer, especially those who came from classes that didn't do any mindfulness activities in the past.

I did manage to find a few websites with some awesome explanations and activities for helping children understand and practice Mindfulness.

## What Happened Next?

After much discussion, we decided on a gesture for each strategy. Every morning, after the Pledge of Allegiance and the school chant, my students would recite the 6 Strategies for Success, complete with the gestures we created together. My plan definitely had a strong influence on the classroom community! They were safe, respectful, responsible, team players, mindful, and active learners!

Since I started using this system, confidence in my students has increased, and their awareness of the social/ emotional climate in themselves, as well as their classmates, has soared!