Hi there! Today Courtney from Create Inspire Teach and I are chatting about the last components of the Fundamental Four: Engaging Learners.

Spending 7 hours sitting inside of a classroom can be exhausting for not only students, but teachers as well! We all have those BRILLIANT kiddos that just can not stay still for longer than 10 minutes. I mean, who can blame them? I'm sharing 10 activities & ideas for making instruction active, engaging, and meaningful. Let's just say, at the end of the school year when my kiddos are asked to write about their "Favorite Third Grade Memories", the majority of these activities are on their list.

Cocktail Discussion

Don't worry, there no alcohol required for this. ;) This was actually a great strategy I learned at a CRISS training (I've you've never taken one of these trainings, I highly recommend it! Tons of engaging ideas.) It is very similar to a think-pair-share but with an active twist. I usually use cocktail discussions at a beginning of a brand new lesson just to see what students already know about a specific topic. They are a great way of introducing weekly essential questions.

Engaging Learners Through Collaboration
I write the essential question on the board and circle it. Example EQ: How can we help make the Earth better? The students copy it down in their notebooks and create a web around it. I then set a timer for 2-3 minutes. The students must walk around the room and form a group of 5-6 members. The groups are usually formed on each of the four corners in the classroom. If the students walk up to a group that has already exceeded the amount of members, they must quickly go and find another group. At their groups, they discuss the topic. Students record information discussed amongst members or any new ideas. After the 2-3 minutes are over and the buzzer goes off, the students must walk around the room and form a new group. (Yes, some of the old members might overlap and that's okay! As long as it's not the exact same group as before.) The students brainstorm new ideas with this group and share any ideas gathered from the previous group. This process can be repeated 3-4 times. 
The activity is concluded with a whole-class shared discussion.

Musical Chairs

My kiddos loved this activity and begged me to do it everyday! I use this as a review for 2-digit multiplication, but it can be used to review any kind of skill. Here's how it works: I place the review sheet or activity on each desk. Once the music starts, the students move around the room ---dancing, wiggling, doing the dab.... whatever makes them happy. Once the music stops, they have to find an empty desk, sit down, and solve the first problem. The music starts again, they repeat the process and solve the next problem. I didn't take away any chairs like the typical musical chairs because that would leave kids without an opportunity to solve any problems. 
This is perfect for multiplication & division drills!


Scoots around the room are a great way to get your students moving. The best part is that scoots can be done with any kind of task cards and/or that you may have handy! Simply place the cards around the room (make sure they are numbered) and give each student a response sheet. I pick two numbers at random from my popsicle stick bucket and that determines the buddies that will be working together on the scoot. Each pair starts at a different task card placed around the room. They move around the room answering each card until they have reached their starting point. This can also be done using a timer, but it can be a bit stressful for those students that work at a slower pace.

Strategies for an Energetic Class

Want to make it a silent scoot?
 I challenge my kiddos to see who can be the QUIETEST, yet most collaborative group. I tell them they have to find a way to communicate with their partner without saying a word. 

 Click below to grab a FREE 3-Digit Subtraction with Regrouping Task Card Scoot!

Vocabulary Charades

Every Thursday I give a group of 3-4 students a vocabulary word. (I whisper it in their ear so no other group can hear it.) The students brainstorm a mini skit (30 seconds-1 minute) that will help the rest of the class guess what word they are acting out. The kiddos get so creative with this and even incorporate props from around the room! It's a great review right before Friday test days.

Review Jenga

Review Jenga is the perfect way to get students engaged in their learning. I use these jingo games during literacy and math centers. Students have to answer the questions on the corresponding cards in order to move the game piece.
Math Review Jenga Game

Learning "Hut"

St.Patrick's Day happened to land on the week right before state testing this school year.I knew that my students only had a week to prep for the test, but I also wanted them to enjoy the holiday! I set up themed centers to review each of the skills that would be on the test. I did this for math and reading.One of their favorite centers was the "Leprechaun Cave". All I did was hang a green tablecloth over my reading corner to create a little 'hut'. The students worked on elapsed time in there with a student teacher. (I would recommend supervision in that center since you can't really see what's going on inside.) They had so much fun they didn't even realize they were really prepping for the test!

Bucket Scoot

This is very similar to the room scoots, you would just be using little buckets. Place buckets around the room (You may even want to 'hide' them for some extra fun!) The students must pick up the question inside, answer it, and move on to the next bucket.

Interactive Anchor Chart

I'm sure we are all huge fans of graphic organizers. I use them all the time-- especially during reading instruction. However, they do get a little repetitive and sometimes it's nice to just change it up a bit. I grabbed two hula hoops and created a life-sized graphic organizer. I had the students read a passage and typed up different character traits on pieces of colored paper. The kiddos had to compare and contract the characters in order to determine where each trait belonged. 
Engaging Ideas and Tricks for Students

Take it Outside!

I love taking learning outside. It's a nice change of scenery and it gets kiddos moving. I grabbed some picnic tablecloths and baskets and took out math review outside. I simply cut up the review sheet into strips, placed them inside the baskets, and had groups of four work together to solve them. We then debriefed the answers as a group while we enjoyed some popsicles. 

Flashlight Fridays

Every Friday morning, kiddos are encouraged to bring a flash light to school and grab a book! On Fridays, we ditch morning work and just spend some time soaking up a good book! The thought of reading in the dark sparks immediate engagement. 

Kids will be kids! We surely can not expect them to stay sitting in a desk 8 hours a day without acting up or getting off-task. I know I sure can't! I hope these ideas can help you spice up your instruction and get your kiddos MOVING. 

Welcome back to our Fundamental Four series!
Today, Courtney from Create Inspire Teach and I will be talking all about Building Classroom Community.

What is a Classroom Community?

 Cultivating relationships with our students is ESSENTIAL. Students should feel valued and connected to not only the teacher, but other students as well. A classroom community consists of positive relationships, collaboration and discussions, responsibilities, and overall acceptance. When students feel like they belong, they are more than likely to become instantly engaged and active participants of their learning. Think about it this way, do you feel more inclined to go to work if you have a boss that constantly encourages you, lifts you up with positive words, and is always there to help? Yup.
 Now, a classroom community is something that's created and nurtured throughout the school year. It definitely does not happen over night. But when it does, it's truly magical. 

Set Classroom Expectations

Instead of setting classroom rules, I set classroom expectations. Last year I only had THREE expectations.
1) Show respect to everyone.
2) Make smart choices.
3) Solve your problems.
These three expectations pretty much encompassed every rule I could think of. Students understood the importance of following these rules in order to maintain a successful classroom environment. We focused on discussing and breaking down the expectations by thinking about what specific behaviors would fall under each one. While brainstorming expectations together, we created an anchor chart filled with expected behaviors. The students all signed the chart and it was displayed in the classroom all year.
I don't have a picture of the chart, but some of the behaviors included:
-Listen to others before speaking
-Ask for help when needed
-Use kind words
- Try to solve a problem with words before bringing it up to the teacher's attention.
 (We discussed what kinds of problems would fall under this category. We reinacted out minor problems such as "He doesn't let me go first!" "She skipped me in line!", "I don't have a pencil!" and what would be some of the possible solutions.)

Create Class Goals

Another great way to get everyone to collaborate is to work together to set class goals. I like meeting with the class at least once a month to discuss our progress as a whole. Have we been slacking on completing our iReady minutes? Have we been checking out books from the library? How are our assessment scores doing? We reflect on different areas as a whole and set quarterly goals. Here are some examples of the goals we've set:

By the end of the quarter, our class will:
-Read 60 books
-Complete the required 45 minutes of iReady every single week
-Complete our homework 4 out of 5 days a week
-Complete one act of kindness a day

I've been guilty of having a "Data Wall" just because our administration requires it. I fill in the data, but the kiddos have no idea what any of it stands for. Last year I made sure to explain the process to them and we worked together to set the goals. This year I created these large Data Tracking and Goal Setting posters that will be displayed on our wall. 

Host Classroom Discussions

Finding the time to do anything outside of 'instruction' during the school day can be extremely hard.  You have two math lessons to catch up on, an assessment to debrief, and guided reading groups scheduled for the day. How in the world are you going to fit a classroom discussion in there? We've all been there.
I display a prompt on the board twice a week. I saw this idea floating around Instagram for a while and knew I had to start implementing it in my class. When students walk in, they have a post it already on their desk. They read the prompt on the board and walk up to the board to place their post-it next to it. Once all students have completed morning work and we are ready to get started for the day, we spend about 3-5 minutes discussing the prompt as a whole. This is a great time to bond as a class. We share stories, laugh, and BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. 

Morning Meeting Starters

Grab these FREE discussion prompts below!
Free Classroom Discussion Starters

I hope you grabbed some new ideas to help build student relationships! 

Hi there! Courtney and I are back with topic #2 of our Fundamental Four series. Today we're chatting all about Classroom Organization.

If you're a first year teacher, you'll soon discover the massive amount of paper work you'll have to sort through on a daily basis. Maintaining some kind of organizational system is KEY to a healthy school year. 

I'm sharing some organizational hacks that have worked for me throughout my teaching career. If you're not an organized person, that's totally fine! One tiny change in the way you collect papers or where you 'store' papers can go a long way. 

Assign Student Numbers

Want to make your life 100 times easier? Assign student numbers. Print out a class roster in alphabetical order and assign each student a number based on their order. 

When collecting assignments, I call students up in numerical order. The assignments are automatically in alphabetical order which means I can easily grade, input, and file without having to reorganize them.

Use an Organizational Cart to Sort Assignments

Once I collect the assignments, I place them in the 'to be graded' drawer of my organizational cart. This cart has been an absolute LIFE SAVER. It helps me keep all of my papers in one place. If i'm done grading, the papers move to the "input in gradebook" and then to the "to file" drawer. This system helps me visualize just how much needs to get done, while also keeping all the clutter off my desk. 

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.
Click HERE to shop the cart on Amazon
Classroom Organization Cart
Drawer & Bin Labels can be found in my TPT store

Here are some of my favorite organizational products:
(Many Lakeshore organizational products and storage are 20% off online and in store for the Back to School Sale going on now until 9/1/2019)

Debrief & File with Students

I truly believe in the power of letting students reflect on their work after its been graded. They should be able to see what they did well on and what their areas for growth are.

 I pass out student work on a bi-weekly basis. Students spend about five minutes looking over their work, plugging percentages into their data chart, and reflecting on areas for growth. I call students up in number order and have them place all of their papers inside of their filing folder. This whole process only takes about 10-15 minutes at the end of the day, while saving me tons of filing time. #winwin

Keep Your Copies Organized

We have a copy assistant at our school who makes copies for us on a weekly basis. It's truly a blessing. I have my lesson plans and activities planned before my copy day so that i'm able to get everything done on time. 

I used to place a post-it note on every piece of paper that needed copying. I quickly realized that my directions were pretty much the same every week."23 copies front and back, 23 copies single sided, 23 copies stapled..." So, I grabbed a couple of cloth pins and wrote down the different copy procedures on them. Now, I spend less time writing on sticky notes and can actually use my sticky notes for student note-taking. 
Once the copies are done, I organize them inside my 'days of the week' folders. I take out the folder from the rolling cart every morning and keep it on my desk. All of my copies are organized and ready for the day!

You can grab the Days of the Week Folder templates below. 

FREE Folder Covers
I hope these tips were helpful.

Click below to read more:

+ Classroom Management Ideas
+ 10 Ways to Engage Learners

It's back to school season! Courtney from Create, Inspire, Teach and I have decided to team up and share two weeks of fun with ya'll!
We sat down to brainstorm how we could help out new teachers and/or anyone looking to spice up their teaching this upcoming school year. Every idea that popped into our heads revolved around FOUR fundamental components of teaching. We quickly realized that we needed to create something that would help teachers enrich these four components.

We will be sharing tips, ideas, and FREE resources with you all during the next two weeks focusing on the following topics:
-Classroom Management
-Classroom Organization
-Classroom Community
-Engaging Learners 

With that being said, today i'm going to be sharing a little insight on classroom management.
Classroom management is one of the key components of effective teaching. With a proper classroom management system in place, you’re able to spend less time redirecting and more time focusing on instruction. Being able to focus on a lesson can be difficult when you have students engaged in side conversations, other kiddos out of their seats, and kiddos rummaging through their backpacks searching for materials.

Three Tips for an Effective Classroom Management System: 

1)   BE CONSISTENT.—Whatever classroom management system it is that you decide to implement, stick to it! If you will use Class Dojo and explain to your students that they will earn a point for specific behaviors, then MAKE SURE you are really giving those points every time the behaviors are exhibited. No one likes empty promises—especially kids. If you explain the rewards and consequences of a system to them, then you must follow through with it. Trust me, kiddos catch on when they see you’re not consistent. “Eh, she never really gives us Dojo points when we’re on task. What’s the point?” 

2)    INDIVIDUAL STUDENT & CLASS-WIDE INCENTIVES ARE NECESSARY- Not only should students be able to work to achieve their personal behavior goals, but they should feel responsible for some type of class-wide goal. Class-wide goals teach kiddos the importance of working as a team and how to motivate one another. I like to use the ‘Unlock the Prize” in my classroom. We set a class-wide behavior goal and the class earns a key every time they exhibit a behavior that matches the goal.

How to Use: Simply laminate the chart and the matching keys. Place a magnet behind each colored key. Stick the magnetized key above the B&W key every time the class demonstrated a desired behavior.
3)   FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE- Now, I’m not saying you shouldn't have consequences for inappropriate student behaviors. There most definitely should be and your students should know what the consequences are. However, make sure to always try to focus on the positive. Something as simple as the way you say things to your students can make a huge impact. Remember, our goal isn't  to embarrass our students. 

Using Dojo to Track Behaviors

My go-to classroom management tool is Class Dojo. Class Dojo is a website which allows teachers to reward students with points for positive behaviors. Each student has an avatar which projects on the promethean board along with all of the other students' avatars. Students are able to see and hear when they receive or lose a point. (I don't like taking away points. I usually just focus on the positive behaviors and it automatically motivates those 'off-task' students to get it together. LOL) 
Parents can also access the app on their phones and monitor how their child is behaving throughout the school day.
Class Dojo has been a serious game changer!

Classroom Economy System

There is more than just intristic motivation behind these points. Yes, kiddos want to impress their parents when they get home and show off how many points they've earned that day.
However, our Classroom Economy System is what motivates them even more. 😉
I do not reset student points until the new week has started. On Friday, if students have 10 or more points, they are able to cash out their points for "Class Cash".

Reward Coupons in the Classroom 

Students use this cash to purchase coupons from our Coupon Catalog. I usually allow them to purchase coupons every Friday during the last 5 minutes of class. They decide whether they want to purchase a coupon or if they want continue saving their cash for an even better coupon.
All Dojo points are reset on Monday morning. This way students have a fresh start and are able to work towards those 10+ points every week! 
The best part about having a classroom economy and reward coupons is that I no longer have to spend money every week restocking our treasure box. Coupons reward students with privileges that make them feel special. What kid would't love sitting at the teacher's desk and using the VIP supplies?!

Boost up your classroom management with these 8 FREE reward coupons!


Head over to Courtney's blog to read all about her Classroom Management system! She's also sharing some exclusive freebies with you! ;)

Click below to read more:

+ Classroom Organization Hacks
+ 10 Ways to Engage Learners
+ Building Classroom Community

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! As we all know, keeping our kiddos engaged in reading over the summer can be quite challenging. Did you know that 20% of children ages 6–17 read zero books over the summer? 

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. If you get the chance, write back to them! 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. Trash to Treasure Digital Slides Project by Sweet Tooth Teaching

Google Slides STEM Project to help students understand the importance of reusing! Students will create an item using recycled/reusable materials found around their home. This is a DIGITAL resource which allows students to type in the text boxes and add photos. (Can be used on Google Slides or PowerPoint)

3. 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.

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

5. 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.

6. 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!

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

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

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

9. 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!

10. Earth Day Writing Sheets by 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! 

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