Have an Awesome Day With a Substitute in Your Classroom!

Sunday, November 11, 2018 No comments

Happy Halloween! This year my team and I were "candy rappers"--- hilarious!! My teammates did an amazing job and really went all out! The kiddos ate this up! We wore baggy pants, candy logos, sideways hats, chains and even had temporary tattoos! So much fun!! Now, onto the topic for today.... some tips to have an awesome day with a substitute in the classroom.

Kids can be really thrown off by a sub. This isn't all their fault. They should definitely be respectful to adults but, with the whole routine thrown off, a stranger where there is usually a trusted role model, and twenty-something other confused kids, it's bound to be a little strange. You will also have the overly helpful friends who are really trying to help the sub but, end up causing more issues than they fix. I tell my kiddos to just roll with it and do what the sub says, even if it is different. I think I also have a good perspective on this since I was a sub myself. Tips to a sub --- please try to clean up the classroom when you leave. I always did and this makes a huge difference. That's like coming to my house, trashing the place, and then just leaving it. Teachers, try to make it as welcoming as possible and set those kiddos up for success!

Most of these tips are for a prepared day out but, you could tweak some of these to work for emergency days too! You could always put the notes in your emergency sub binder along with a "Sprinkles from the Sub" poster.

1. First tip is "Sprinkles from the Sub"

I make a poster like the one shown above. It's pretty self-explanatory.. the sub can give sprinkles then, the class earns a reward if they get their sprinkles. I actually bought my class donuts for getting their sprinkles!

2. Notes for the kiddos

When I have a planned sub, I always leave notes for my students. Yes, I write them each a note, yes this takes awhile. I cannot tell you how much they love these notes! It truly shows them that you care about them as individuals. If you do any of these tips, this is the one I recognize the most.

3. Emergency Sub Binder

I was a former sub and let me tell you, having sub plans is so important. Especially for unplanned absences. If you search on TPT you will find a TON of emergency no-prep sub plans. No need for your team to run around like crazy to whip up a plan for you. Usually these plans are also fun and project-based which the kiddos love! Win, win!

4. Sub plan in "kid friendly" language for the students

This is a recent change that I read about on Twitter and implemented in my class. I take whatever sub plans I made for the adult and tweak them into kid friendly language. That way the kiddos can see what's coming, there won't be surprises AND they know that I actually said to do something and the sub isn't making it up. I can't tell you how often I heard as a sub "but, we never do that!" This will help eliminate that problem. 😀

5. Sub note template

One last tip, I created this Sub Note template. As a sub I always left a note using this template. I actually would have teachers text to tell me how much they appreciated it. As a classroom teacher, I am SHOCKED with how many subs don't leave a note. That just leaves us wondering about the day and not knowing what we should talk to the class about. I would suggest leaving this on your desk. That way, the sub sees it and knows you expect a note.

Try to relax on your day off and let your students show you how awesome they are when you come back!

Positive Family Relationships

Sunday, October 14, 2018 No comments

One of the things that is extremely important to me is having positive relationships with my students' families. Also, having positive relationships with the families can be awesome on a bad day! So, I have some practical tips to help get this train rolling.... If these sound like a lot, and I know they do, just pick one and give it a shot! I think you will be thrilled with the results!

1. Class Dojo - If you don't use it, you can always look into some other options like an email list, texting, other apps, etc. I use this to constantly keep in touch with my students' families. They can keep track of their behavior, message me throughout the day, etc. I also have a "selfie request" station next to my turn in basket where kiddos can request to have a selfie taken of them with their work. Then, I post this to their personal portfolio on Dojo. The families love this! I also try to post at least one Class Story post a day with a fun activity, info about our read aloud, etc.  Here is a picture of one of my students with his work!

2. Newsletter - This one answers a lot of parent questions before you can even be asked them ;) Honestly, I should have started this even earlier this year. My newsletter has all subjects on it, reminders, my email, important dates, homework info, etc. I send this out monthly with all my kiddos. This is my newsletter template that I use. Click here :)

Fourth Grade Newsletter

3. Social Media (Twitter) - I have a class Twitter that I use DAILY. I send out permission slips that also include the hashtags I use and my Twitter handle (@MrsDFalk) Follow me for an inside look into my classroom! The families love seeing the daily updates.

4. Daily "good notes". I send three notes home per day with my students. I go down my class roster to make sure that everyone gets a fair shot. Of course, if they don't deserve it, they don't get one that day and have to try again the next day. Sometimes I mix it up and go out of order but, I always make sure to keep track on a checklist so that even my energetic friends get notes :) The students love these and they get extra tickets if they get a note!

5. Calls, texts, Dojo messages. Again, I have a checklist to make sure that I contact ALL the families in some way. Most importantly, these are POSITIVE contacts! I make at least five contacts a day on top of the other things. I know that sounds like a lot but, once it's routine, it's pretty easy! It can just be a simple text. The families appreciate this more than you know!

Doing these things is huge for the families in my classroom but, it is also huge for me! I feel like I am connected with all the families which helps me better understand and be connected to my kiddos. Also, at the end of a long day, a positive parent connection can make everyone leave the day on a good note! When you say positive things to the parent, a lot of times, they have positive things to say about you too! You deserve to hear them because we all rock!

Real World Mistakes -- Creativity in "Write About Math"

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 1 comment

I am absolutely loving "write about math" in my Daily 3 math block this year! If you are curious as to what Daily 3 looks like in math I will share what my structure is. I follow The Sister's Daily 3 math structure pretty closely with a few tweaks due to time constraints. This set up is lovely because I am able to pull at least 2-3 small groups a day just in math. In my math block I start with a warm up, then go into my main mini lesson (I do), then the kiddos do "Math With Someone" this is usually a partner game that goes with the topic. Then, I do my second mini lesson (we do), then the kiddos do "Math By Myself". This is when they use a math program such as Freckle.com for individualized practice. My final mini lesson (you do) is when the students complete their independent work and I walk around and help. Then, the final piece is a closing "Write About Math" activity.

Lately, we have been doing Math Mistakes. LOVE THESE!! I simply search "real world math mistakes" on Google and choose one for the day. The kids have a few minutes to look at the image and find the mistake. Then, they write in their journal what the mistake is and why it is a mistake. Finally, we have a chat about the mistake. The kids love seeing people make mistakes in the real world and knowing that they can find the mistakes! I hope you can try this out in your math block! Let me know how it goes with a comment!

How I Create a Love of Reading In My Classroom

Saturday, August 25, 2018 No comments
One of the things that I really pride myself on is creating a love of reading in my classroom. This starts on the very first day of school.

First of all, I have a HUGE classroom library. Now, I'm not saying you should go out and spend a bunch of money. There are ways to get books for your kiddos without buying them brand new. Half Price Books gives away boxes and boxes of books to teachers... just go in and ask. Donorschoose.org is my favorite option! If you don't have one, check it out! Garage sales, library sales, and thrift shops are some more options. Personally, I buy a lot on Scholastic, earn points, then get more books with my points! When the kiddos come in and see my library on the first day, they can't wait to check it out! I have a large variety and set out lots of different ones on display. I make sure that I have the graphic novels front and center, and I set out some non-fiction for those hard to reach friends. They tend to gravitate toward the animal or sports books.

Next, I talk about reading AS A FUN ACTIVITY! I talk about how much I love to read and I say word for word .... "if reading is not fun, you are reading the wrong book. Reading should not be boring". I also tell them that if they hate to read, that my goal this year is to find at least one book that they LIKE. This usually sparks their attention. Some even take it as a challenge! This year, one of my students (on the third day) told me "well Mrs. Falk, you already beat the challenge, I like this book". This comment made my day.

Another key of reading in my classroom is I let them read for enjoyment. During silent reading I may have them do a small jot but, I let them read for fun. I don't give them assignments. I do check in with them for CAFE but, we make those conversations - not assignments.

Read alouds are also part of my day. I am currently reading Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (my absolute FAVORITE book!) This really hooks the kids and makes them realize that books can be really cool. With my read alouds..... gasp...... I don't have them do any work. I know. Crazy. They just listen and then we discuss. I hit the standards but, it is as a conversation. I might even have them chat with each other on Google Classroom. Reading (in my opinion) shouldn't feel too much like a chore or an assignment to just "get through". 

My kiddos leave at the end of the year as readers! I promise! Even if they came in thinking it was the WORST, they leave having enjoyed books during fourth grade. If you want more details on any of the things I talked about... shoot me a comment and I will blog about specifics.

Happy Saturday!!

How I NEVER take work home!

Saturday, August 11, 2018 No comments

So I wanted to get on my favorite soap box today! People ask me all the time: "how do you not grade at home?, how do you never have piles of stuff to grade?, what do you do with all the papers? how do you get grades?" I am here to answer these questions! First off, I NEVER take anything home with me. My first year teaching I remember spreading tons of papers on the floor and grading for hours. Nope. Not anymore.

How do I do this? Well, first of all, I limit the actual worksheets that I give the kiddos. There are so many options for formative assessment where I can simply walk around and jot their grade on paper, in my grade book, etc. For example, if the kids are working on a math concept, I can have them hold up whiteboards and instantly see who's "got it" and who doesn't. I also use a lot of exit tickets where they only answer a few questions. Sometimes, I even grade these right in front of them, circle the ones they got wrong and then they go back and correct. This process takes about 10 minutes to get through the whole class and voila! grades for the that are done if you jot them down as you go. Sometimes I use the workbook pages but, who says they have to do the whole page? I choose a few key problems to show their skills and then I only grade those. BAM! Time cut in half and the students aren't sitting there all day doing a workbook page. So, in short, make your formative assessments nice and... short.

Another key to my grading process.... this one is top secret.... I.... throw..... things..... away. Sometimes, I can give grades based on what I see in class and anecdotal notes. I do NOT need to grade a math page every. single. stinking. day. That is crazy. If I don't grade it in at least 2 days, it gets thrown out. Formative assessments are supposed to be used to inform your instruction. If you don't grade quickly, you cannot possibly be using that to inform your practice. So, if it doesn't get graded right away, it doesn't get graded at all.

Lastly, homework. I do not grade homework. I check for completion and look at one or two questions to make sure they didn't write "booger" for every answer. This saves a ton of time and I cannot imagine sitting and grading homework every day. In my opinion, I could be doing much more amazing things for my students with that time.

That's it. The end. Now, go spend your time not grading!

Theme Book Brochures

Thursday, June 21, 2018 No comments

I am SOOO excited about my new TPT product! I have created brochures for theme. I plan to do a lot more reading standards and this turned out SUPER cute! Please post pics when your kiddos make these. I will post mine, too! These can be used for assessment, lit circles, book clubs, book talks, etc. Have fun! Don't forget to follow my TPT store! Click here for this product!

 Theme Book Brochures

Daily 3 Check In

Thursday, June 14, 2018 No comments
I am moving into a school that does all Daily 3 and CAFE. I came from a school awhile ago that did this so, I am pretty excited to try again! With that being said, I really needed a Daily 3 check in for my SmartBoard. I made this today and wanted to share with all of you. If you would like a different color scheme, or a customized one, let me know! Don't forget to follow me on TPT!

Click Here to Download!