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Alright, let's face it. We live in a day and age where kids are consumed by their phones. They are playing games on their phones, texting, and 'snap-chatting'. (If that's even a word...)

Unfortunately, we don't always have complete control over who our children are communicating with on their phones. It's a scary reality.

That is, until now. I'm beyond excited to share the Messenger Kids by Facebook app with you all! You guys, this app is a GAME CHANGER for parents and teachers. We can finally feel that our kiddos are SAFE while they chat on their phones. Messenger Kids is a video calling and messaging app designed for children to connect with family and friends. It's completely free and they can access the app from any tablet or smartphone. 

Take a sneak peek inside the app:

Here's why this app is a game changer:

It's SAFE.
  • Parents are in control of their child's contact list, which means that kiddos can only connect with contacts that have been approved by their parents and cannot chat with any other person outside of the parent-approved contact list. If there are any issues, parents and kids can report or block contacts.
  • Messenger Kids allows kiddos to video call with just Wi-Fi. No phone number is needed to make video calls.
  • Messenger Kids content does not disappear, nor can it be hidden.
  • Parents can designate when the app will go on "Sleep Mode" to manage how long their child is able to use the app.
  • Kiddos are able to communicate with family, friends that have moved across country, or even classmates for a school project! It's the perfect way to laugh, play, and practice those social skills that many kiddos seem to struggle with. 
  • Kiddos can create videos and photos using fun graphics such as masks, frames, stickers, and GIFs. 
  • Unleash the creativity! They can use filters, games, and drawing tools to express themselves via chat.
It Can Promote LEARNING!
. With parent approval, kiddos can use the Messenger Kids app to chat with their classmates after school.
  • Kiddos can use the drawing game on Messenger Kids to review vocabulary words. One child will draw the word and send it to their friend to guess what it is.
  • One kiddo can say a spelling word, while the other writes out the word using the drawing tools on the app.
  • Students can chat about group projects, books, or help each other out with homework. 
Accessing the App:
Accessing the app is easy, quick, and free!
  1. Parents must download the Messenger Kids app on their child's phone or tablet.
  2. Parents will authenticate the child’s device using their Facebook login.
  3. Create an account for the child under the parent's account by adding their name. Now, the child is able to use the phone or tablet safely to start chatting with family and friends approved by the parent. (This will not create a Facebook account for your child.)
  4. Parents may access controls on the 'Parent Portal' section of the main Facebook app. From this portal, parents may approve contacts, set sleep mode times, and monitor who the child chats with.

I hope your child is as excited about this app as I am!
Summer Reading Ideas for Kids

The end of the school year is quickly approaching. HOW did this school year go by so fast?!
As we all know, keeping our kiddos engaged in reading over the summer can be seriously challenging. It's difficult to hold students accountable for their reading when they are not coming to class every week. Did you know that 20% of children ages 6–17 read zero books over the summer? ZERO!! Tablets and video games are taking over these kids' lives! 
My ultimate goal as an educator is to inspire students to become lifelong readers. I want each and everyone of them to love books just as much as I did when I was a kid. (& still do!)

Since the school year is almost over, I've decided to share some ideas on how we can motivate our kiddos to keep reading over the summer.

1- Send Home a Summer Challenge and/or Reading Bucket List.

Some kiddos stay at home all summer glued to their tablet. By providing a list of reading "challenges", they are more likely to grab a book and find a comfy spot around the house (or at the park!). 

2- Read & Write
Ask your kiddos to write you a letter over the summer telling you all about a book they read. Make sure to write back because we all know kids love getting a handwritten letter in the mail.

3-  Parent Tips & Ideas
Send home a parent letter with tips & ideas for incorporating reading into their daily routine. Start With A Book is a great website to share with parents. It includes tons of activities and books tied to different topics. 

4-Scholastic Read-A-Palooza
 Encourage your kiddos to join the Scholastic Read-A-Palooza Summer Challenge over the summer break.

5- Plan a Reading "Date" with your Students 
Invite your kiddos (and parents) to meet you at the local library a day during the summer. Catch up on what everyone is doing while encouraging students to check out books. 
6- Gift a Book
 Many students do not have books at home, nor do they have access to a library. You can use your Scholastic points to gift your students a book at the end of the year. Scholastic has a large variety of $1 books available or books you can 'purchase' with your points. 
Grab the Summer Tags HERE. 
7- Find Local Reading Events
Find out what events and exhibits are taking place in the area over the summer. Create a list or calendar of local summer learning events taking place and share it with your students and families.
8- Introduce the Family Book Club to your Student Families. 
Jodie from Growing Book by Book has created a Family Book Club which is designed to increase family involvement and literacy. Each monthly theme focuses on a different character trait. She shares books to match each trait, conversation starters, themed dinner menus, crafts to decorate the dining table, and matching family service projects. 
I hope these ideas were helpful! Feel free to share any other great Summer Reading ideas in the comments below.
Have a fun & safe summer friends!

It's Earth Day Month! 
Earth day is one of my FAVORITE days to celebrate with my kiddos. I am a huge nature lover and try to do the best I can to take care of our planet. As teachers, we play a big role in teaching the importance of taking care of this beautiful place. Our kiddos are the ones that are going to stay here 
long after we're gone, right?
I'm sharing 10 Earth Day FREEBIES you can use with your kiddos throughout the month of April. 

1. Earth Booklet & Plant Sequencing Cards by Alleah Maree
In this freebie, you'll find a bunch of fun activities for your little students to learn about plants, how they grow, and the Earth! 

2. Earth Day Fact or Opinion by Lucky Little Learners
Grab this free Earth Day fact and opinion worksheet to help your students learn more about our planet and the Earth Day holiday. This Earth Day free worksheet is perfect for a quick independent activity in your classroom.
 Learn all about Earth Day by sorting facts and opinions about our planet.

3. Earth Day Necklace by The Crafty Classroom
Send your kiddos home with an important Earth Day message to share with their parents!

4. Happy Earth Vs. Sad Earth Sorting by Tot Schooling
This FREE Earth Day sorting activity goes beyond just recycling, teaching kids about how to take care of our planet through conservation, cleaning, reusing and planting. It also introduces children to air, water and land pollution.
Have your kiddos work in groups to sort out good and bad choices.

5. Earth Day Vocabulary Posters by Pocket of Preschool
 FREE Earth Day vocabulary posters! Plus Earth Day literacy, math, sensory, science, sensory, art, and fine motor activities and centers for preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten.
Display these all week long for reference!

6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Sort by Stories by Storie
Have your kiddos sort our different Earth Day scenarios based on the three R's.

7. Earth Day Reader by A Dab of Glue Will Do

Help your kiddos learn more about Earth Day with this nonfiction reader.

8. Earth Day Hat with Recycling Activity by Smitten with First
This cut & paste lesson on reducing, reusing, and recycling is turned into an adorable craft that kiddos can take home!

 9. Earth Day Writing Cards by Jessica Travis
Use these writing cards during centers to help your kiddos build sentences or to incorporate them in their paragraph writing. 

10. Earth Day Writing Sheets by Me-- Sweet Tooth Teaching
Earth Day writing and planning sheets will help your kiddos transfer everything they've learned onto paper! Also includes Earth craft to attach to their writing piece.

I hope you found these 10 freebies helpful! 

State Testing Classroom Transformation

Testing season is here! Everyone's favorite time of the year--- said no one ever!
Actually, I do kind of enjoy the prepping that goes along with testing season. Okay, hear me out before you think I am absolutely out of my mind.
I love creating review lessons and activities that are engaging for my kiddos. Testing season is the best time to put all of those skills we've learned throughout the year together and create a meaningful transformation for the babes! 
For the last two years, I've hosted a testing bootcamp the week right before state testing. Ya'll, IT IS A HIT. We transform our classroom into a military camp. Since our walls have to be covered for testing purposes, it works out perfectly! I cover the walls with 'military themed paper'--- AKA butcher paper.
Nothing Fancy.

This post contains affiliated links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may make a commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Items I Purchased:

*Buckets are from Walmart & Dollar Tree 

So here's how it works:

Each student is given a bootcamp 'Mission Folder' and badge for the week. They place any completed assignments inside their folder. 

Templates are from Katie Meyer on TPT. 

I create 'Missions' for each week. Each mission focuses on a specific skill or strategy that we have already learned throughout the school year. 
Each mission consists of some kind of hands-on activity. 
For example, Mission one might be a text structure sort. Mission two is answering sequencing task cards scattered across the room.
I divide each day of the week into four missions. The students are divided into four groups as well. They are each assigned a mission to begin with. Once they have completed that mission and i've checked their work, they will earn a star for their badge and are able to move on to the next mission. 
(The 'star' is really just a star sticker, but oh man do they get excited about that sticker! Yes, even fourth graders get excited about stickers.)
Pretty much: We did literacy centers, but I added a fun 'bootcamp' twist to it.
Some days might not consist of four missions or groups. In the image above you will see that Day 2 was focused on just whole-group missions. However, they were still rewarded for their completion.
You do NOT have to go out of your way to create something extremely over the top for each mission. Remember, you will be prepping a lot of activities ahead of time so you don't want to overwhelm yourself. I just tried to add a little 'flair' to each activity so that it was a bit more hands-on than a plain-old worksheet. 

I used these text structure task cards from Rachel Lynett on TPT and created these charts with the text structures written on them. Instead of just having the kiddos choose the multiple choice answer, they used tape to sort the passages based on their text structure. 

Testing bootcamp is definitely a fun and easy way to review with your kiddos right before state testing!
Social Committee FREE Ideas and signs

Do you have a sunshine committee (or events committee) at your school? If you don't, you need to hop on that train, ASAP! As part of the Sunshine Committee and admin team, we try to make our teachers and staff feel appreciated whenever we can. 
I used to work at a school filled with negative vibes. (I know we've all dealt with a Debbie Downer teacher.) Honestly, i'm a huge believer that your vibe attracts your tribe! Our Sunshine Committee and the uplifting environment in our school has had the power to transform many non-believers. 😉 
Sometimes it's just the little things that can completely change the vibe at your school. Stuck at a difficult school with a difficult staff? Maybe all it takes is YOU to make the difference and influence those around you!

 We walk around the hallways with our  cart to distribute treats and smiles to our staff. Sometimes it can be as a simple as offering some afternoon coffee. So if you're looking into creating a Sunshine Committee at your school, i'll share some treat ideas that we've done for our team.

1. Welcome goody bags filled with donut holes. Download the Donut Tag FREEBIE here.

2. Welcome treat for our SRO officer. Download the SRO Tag FREEBIE here.

3. Teacher Appreciation treat! Download the Latte Tag FREEBIE here.

4. Treats for our dismissal team. (We have the silent dismissal program at our school.)

5. 100 calorie snack bars for the 100th day of school!

6. Halloween treats and beverages.

8. Cinco de Mayo Nacho & Guac bar! (Wish I had pictures of the actual taco bar!)

I hope your Sunshine Committee brings lots of joy and positivity to your school!
Don't forget to tag me (@sweettoothteaching) in your sunshine committee photos!
Literacy Centers in the Classroom

Literacy centers was my absolute favorite time of the day when I was in the classroom! It's the perfect time to sit down with my struggling kiddos and focus on exactly what they need. It's also the perfect time to sit down with my high kiddos and push them to their fullest potential.
I've always worked at a Title 1 school with inclusive classrooms. What does this mean? ALL OF MY STUDENTS were at different levels! I've had ESOL students, gifted, students with IEP's and 504s, and all the things in ONE classroom. This calls for some serious differentiated instruction!
So, throughout my teaching career I learned to spend less time on whole-group instruction and more time on DI. 
I'll give you a glimpse of what my Literacy Centers looks like. 

Planning & Set-up of Centers
First off, I group my students based on abilities. I usually use test scores, teacher judgement, or just a specific skill the group might be struggling with. I change groups around every quarter or on an as-needed basis. I give each group a name that matches the theme of my classroom. Since last year's theme was travel, our center groups were names after continents.
(Make sure to display the group names and members somewhere visible in my classroom.)

I use a piece of velcro to move the groups around the centers.
I've also used this template for centers:

Next up-- decide how often your groups will rotate and what kind of DI plan you want to put in place. 
In my case, I usually see one to two groups a day. Some teachers choose to see three groups and just spend 15 minutes with each group. I rather see less groups and spend more time with each one.
It's totally up to you!

My literacy centers are: reading comprehension, teacher-led, word work, and technology.

 Here's a glimpse inside my DI lesson plan:

This template shows one rotation a day. (Fridays are consumed by testing, which doesn't give us much time for centers!)

You can grab this template along with the Literacy Workshop board in my TPT store.
I use this template on the weeks that i've decided to do two rotations.

Choosing Activities for Centers:
I have SO many center games, task cards, and resources that i've gathered over the years! (The majority of them are from TPT or hand-made resources) They're organized in bins and ziplock bags for easy access!

My DI plans are created based on specific needs I see in my class or skills we're working on. For example, if a group of kiddos bombed a cause/effect test the previous week, we'll focus on cause & effect in our teacher-led center the next week. If we're working on punctuation during whole-group instruction, i'll create a punctuation activity for our word work center. 

I LOVE incorporating task cards in our comprehension center! The kiddos love working with one another and helping each other out with our weekly comprehension skill. I differentiate the independent centers as well. Each group has a different set of task cards depending on their level. (multiple choice, fill in the blank, & 'create your own' options) 

I usually assign a group 'leader' for the month. This person is in charge of making sure everyone understands the activity and is on task. The kiddos know they are not allowed to come interrupt my teacher-led center unless their head is on fire. Literally. 

An anchor chart like this one from @miss2ndgrade would really help. 😉

Word work center is usually the most engaging one! I try to include hands-on activities like this one. We used lucky charms as punctuation marks (each bag was labeled with the punctuation mark it represented) The kiddos had to read the passage together and decide which mark belonged at the end of each sentence.

We also work on vocabulary, spelling, and grammar skills in our word work center.

Our teacher-led center is where the true differentiation magic happens! Every group has a different activity based on their needs. In this case, this group needed some extra TLC with their text-based writing. We used the RACE strategy to identify the components of a paragraph.

We also use leveled readers, work on debriefing cold read passages, and play comprehension games during teacher-led. I try to switch up the activities so the kiddos are always excited to come to see me. 

And that's about it! Literacy centers can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but I promise that once you get into the routine, it's a piece of cake! You'll see the most learning and growth when your kiddos are engaged in the proccess. 
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