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Ahh yes, the ideal student....what makes for an ideal student?  If I were to wish for a classroom full of ideal students, each one would possess certain qualities.  He would know my rules and expectations and would gladly exhibit that knowledge throughout every day.  He would faithfully follow all carefully planned routines I had shown him without question.  He would learn and remember all the wonderful lessons I had taught him.  Yes, this would be the ideal student!  Perhaps just a dream, but not as far-fetched as some might think with a well-thought-out plan.

Shaping my ideal students starts the very first week of school.  And as most veteran teachers know, well planned strategies for that first week sets the tone for the rest of the year.  Here's the short version of my First Week plan to establish a classroom community that runs smoothly and sets the stage for top-notch learning.


Establishing classroom rules is a no-brainer. The ideal student must clearly understand what is expected of him and how he should behave.
I always make a plan to introduce my rules and write it out step-by-step, so nothing is forgotten. When I introduce a rule, I'm specific and don't just talk about it.  I model it, both the right way and the wrong way (they love that!).  We role play it in a variety of ways: doing it the right way, doing it the wrong way, sometimes I'm the student and the student is the teacher, etc.  And then we practice, practice, practice every day of the first week (and frequently thereafter).  You can read about it in much greater detail on this post HERE.


Daily routines include anything else that takes place and how I want it to happen (what it looks like, what it sounds like) - every little nitty gritty thing, including how to enter the classroom and what to do, how to do lunch count, what to do when I'm giving instruction, when and how to sharpen pencils , and every other type of transition.  I plan our day, step by step, and then teach my ideal students how to do every little thing. Then we practice, practice, practice every day for the entire week (and frequently thereafter).


Now last, but not least, is my secret strategy. This strategy is actually part of establishing the daily routine.  In fact, it is the routine that sets the tone for the entire day.  Years ago I quickly learned that if my students came into the classroom in an orderly fashion each morning, without chaos, and with a meaningful purpose, then they had automatically conditioned themselves to be attentive learners for the remainder of the day.  

The trick was to come up with the perfect solution to trigger an orderly, meaningful, and eagerly anticipated entry into the classroom every day.  If I could do that, it would certainly address the issue of starting the day without chaos, but, remember, it must also be meaningful.  This was an opportunity to address the age-old problem of students forgetting the lessons they had learned.  I wanted to set them up to be ideal students that had learned and retained what they had been taught. This morning task had to be kept simple, yet just challenging enough to encourage anticipation and confidence that they could demonstrate the right answers (kids love to show what they know when they are confident about it).  I wanted my kids to know and remember the important skills I was teaching them, so I made a plan to do just that and to address all of the above criteria at the same time.  My Daily Morning Work was born!  I kid you not, it has truly been my best strategy for shaping self-reliant, knowledgeable, and confident ideal students.  

Anyway, as part of establishing my first week routines, I teach my students, step-by-step, how to enter the classroom each morning and complete their Morning Work. We practice it together every day that week (and taper off as they become sufficient at doing it on their own).  

You can be ready for the first week of school with my FREE 1st Grade and 2nd Grade sets HERE. You can also find the the yearlong First Grade and Second Grade sets in my store if you're interested.

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Here's to wishing you a great year with a room full of ideal students!




Hi all!  It's that time again.  Are you ready to meet your new kiddos?  I know I was always so excited to see all the new little faces and get to know them.  And as excited and nervous...yes nervous...as I was, I know they were just as nervous to meet me and their new environment.

That's why, years ago about a week or so before school began, I started sending out welcome postcards to let my little ones know how excited I was to have them in my class.  I let them know that we would be doing lots of fun activities, and I just couldn't wait to meet them and get started.

I also wrote a letter with the same kind of message, that I sometimes sent instead; or if I didn't get the postcards out in time, I often put the letter on their desks at the before-school open house!  Or sometimes I put it on their desks the first day, so they could read and color it as they arrived, to help ease the tension.

Parents loved these too; they were always telling me how much their kids loved the postcard or letter and would carry it around for days.  This still makes my heart sing! To think how such a little act can mean so much to a child!

Anyway, today I'm sharing with you my postcard and letter templates that are editable so you can type in your own message, names and addresses.  I hope they help to make your beginning-of-the-year a little less stressful, with all you have to get done before the big day.


Just click HERE or on one of the images below.



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Have a GREAT year!



Yep, school's almost out!  And, whether you're the teacher or the parent, it's time to think about ways to keep your little sweeties from forgetting everything they've learned all year. 

Of course, kids need some downtime, just like we do.  Hopefully they will have at least a week or two to simply enjoy summer....no obligations.....no educational expectations.  Just summer bliss.

If you're a summer school teacher, you know as well as I do, you have to be prepared with as many fun and hands-on activities you can come up with, because IT'S SUMMER, and kids don't want to do regular school work in SUMMER!  You really don't need to come up with elaborate activities.  Keep it simple.

In my summer school classes, we've always spent a lot of time simply reading and enjoying literature....FOR THE FUN OF IT!  I find this to be one of the best ways to keep their reading skills up to par.  No pressure.
  
To keep math and science fresh and fun, there are numerous outside activities.

This human sundial shadow science experiment is a hands-on way for kids to learn how shadows are created and measure the earth's rotation. Shadow Science | Outdoor STEM | Science experiments for kids
Here's a fun human sundial shadow experiment from Rhythms of Playa hands-on way for kids to learn about how shadows are created and measure the earth's rotation.


And they'll love this Pop Rockets science experiment from 

Julie from Creekside Learning made this hula hoop clock for outside telling time activities with her kids.  How simple is that?!!
Take math outside! Make a Hula Hoop Clock. #math #summerlearning #ece:

Then sometimes, we just need a quiet, laid-back indoor learning activity.  I've found the kids always love color-by-number, so I created a complete set of summer color-by-number printables with a Fourth of July theme.  These go perfectly with the Pop Rockets science activity.
Click on the image to view.


Prevent the summer slide and have a well-prepared and happy summer!





It's around this time of the year that our second graders are introduced (or reintroduced) to contractions.  They really love contraction word work when they are given a variety of fun ways to practice.

Thanksgiving Read Aloud 

My favorite way to kick off our action with contractions is with a read-aloud of Franklin's Thanksgiving.  Franklin's Thanksgiving is a delightful story about friendship and being thankful for friends.  It leaves a message for young readers about the value of kindness.  Definitely an added bonus!
The first time I read the story, it's for pure enjoyment, but usually leads to a discussion about being thankful for our friends. Depending on time and my particular group of students, we write about friends we are thankful for and ways we show our appreciation for them.  Here you can download this free set of Thanksgiving writing templates we use.

Contraction Lesson

Now, back to how I use the text for our contractions study. Either later in the day or the next day, I present a mini-lesson on contractions.  I discuss with them and demonstrate how we shorten two words by putting them together into one word to form a contraction.  We discuss the apostrophe that takes the place of the omitted letters in the second word and practice using n't, 'm, 's, 're, 'll, and 'd.
Together we brainstorm and make an anchor chart with contractions made from the second word being "not, am, is, are, will, and had." It's amazing how excited my kiddos get and how successful they feel during this lesson!


My pumped up contraction experts are now ready to listen for every contraction they hear as I do a second read-aloud of Franklin's Thanksgiving.  More excitement ensues as they frantically raise their hands for every contraction that's read.

Paired Reading and Contraction Hunt

After I finish reading, I pair them up for a paired reading and to record every contraction they find in their notebooks. Franklin's Thanksgiving is perfect for this assignment, not only because it is a seasonal book, but because it is full of contractions! Here's an example from one of my contraction detectives.

I LOVE pairing up students to work cooperatively on a mission like this. They take turns reading page by page and tend to stay much more focused when looking and listening with a set goal in mind.

Contraction Foldable

I created a contraction foldable  the kiddos can use for some extra practice at a literacy center or as a post-lesson activity.  

They can color the Thanksgiving turkey and write their name on one side.........

...... and cut along the dotted lines and write the contraction that each two-words make on the inside.

This FREE Thanksgiving foldable provides teachers with a fun way to review contractions in whatever way they choose.

November is a great month to review contractions, as well as many other important skills before Thanksgiving break. I especially like having this Thanksgiving-themed Contractions I Have Who Has game and these November Math and Literacy No Prep Printables on hand for quick and easy, yet meaningful, reviews. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy my free foldable!

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Can you believe it's already October? Me neither!  In the spirit of this fabulous fall month, I have a quick little geometry spider post for you today.




At the beginning of October, my second graders really get into helping with the October decorating of the classroom. You know, second graders LOVE, LOVE, LOVE doing those kinds of activities.  I am a firm believer that children need time to just have some fun and be creative.  And making October spiders has always been a big hit. 

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