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Five Ways to Build Relationships with your Students

Building relationships with your students is the most important thing to increase student success, happiness, and make classroom management seamless. However, building relationships with your students does not mean you should be friends with them. Children need structure and high expectations, but to succeed, they need to know you care about them and have their best interests at heart. Here are five ways to build relationships with your students.

1. Get to know them personally. Ask about their life outside of school. Take time to talk with all your students. Ask them about their family. What did they do over the weekend? Do they have any hobbies? This is not “wasted” academic time. This is the most valuable time that will make everything else easier!

Knowing things about your students’ personal lives will help you gear instruction towards their interests. This shows them how much you listen to them and care! I showed Peyton the new nonfiction soccer book I bought for the classroom library but wanted her to read first because I knew her love for soccer. She felt so special!

2. Build trust. Show your students that what you say you mean and follow through. You will not make false promises.

3. Be firm. Stick to your expectations, but always tell students why. They need to know it is because you have their best interest in your heart. “Ariel, I expect you to redo this assignment. I know you can do better. I can’t accept anything less than your best because I want you to succeed.”

4. Be fair. Your actions should show you are fair and have the same expectations for everyone. Don’t play favorites. This is hard! Sometimes you may not realize you give the student who “always does the right thing” some slack, but the other kids will notice! They will lose trust in you if you are not fair.

5. Appreciate each child for their uniqueness. Celebrate differences in learning. Celebrate differences in culture. Celebrate differences in personalities.

With some of your kids, it will be easy to form relationships. They will be excited to open up to you and share their lives. It is more challenging to build relationships with other students. It may be a process you work on all year (and maybe even after they leave you for the next grade!). Even with the students who are less willing to open up, never stop trying. You will never really know the impact you may have. 

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The School Supply Solution

How do you handle school supplies? Do you have community supplies for everyone? Do you pass out supplies as needed? When I first started teaching, I tried all the above. I was frustrated at how irresponsible fifth graders were with their supplies. Some students expected me to give them new supplies because they lost things constantly. I became frustrated because I was spending hundreds of dollars on basic supplies for my students.

Then, in my second year of teaching, I worked with a teacher who had a system that taught responsibility and respect for school supplies. I immediately adopted her procedures and policies.
The main point is to teach responsibility. If students have ownership, they will take care of their things and their classroom.

I began each year laying out the supply requirements to parents and students. I put the responsibility on them. I let all the students know that if they lost or broke supplies, it was their responsibility to replace them.

Now, many students cannot afford supplies, and teachers are hesitant to ask. I taught at a school that was over 90% free and reduced lunch. MOST of my students brought most of what they needed after I outlined the expectations. Of course, some students did not bring supplies due to financial needs. I stocked the pencil boxes and desks of these students with no questions asked.

Hold Students Accountable

To hold students accountable for their supplies, I did regular supply checks. Students knew these supply checks could be at any time. It was quick, easy, and helped my students learn how important it is to be prepared and ready. I would simply announce it was time for a supply check so that students could take out their pencil boxes, and then I would announce a supply I was looking for. I would say: “Hold up your three sharpened pencils… one, two, three, up!” and by three, all students should have their three sharpened pencils. I would only check about two supplies per check. This also helped students stay organized because they knew how important it was to be able to access what they needed quickly.

If students did not have a particular supply, I would mark it on my clipboard with my class list. This would help me notice any patterns with students who were perpetually unprepared. I had individual conversations with students who were always unprepared. They were never in trouble or reprimanded, but it was important they understood why they needed to be prepared and ready to learn. This is a vital skill they use in the remainder of their schooling and beyond! I would give students any supplies they were missing, with the understanding they would take care of them.

I always encouraged classmates to “help” their friends who were in need of something. If they saw one of their friends was missing a sharp pencil, many kids who had extras would scamper to give their friend one. I always encouraged friends helping. This promoted our classroom community. They learned to help others when they needed it. It also put a bit of peer pressure on students who were perpetually unprepared to be more responsible.

Most students learned to take care of their supplies. They knew they were accountable! While many students resupplied their own boxes, I would always replenish basic supply needs throughout the year. The child would just let me know their glue was empty, their pencil was worn down, or the ink ran out on their marker. Some days I would surprise the entire class with a new set of fun pencils or erasers. They would get so excited about these little gifts. Supplies were never taken advantage of. Students knew to keep track of and care for their things.

At the beginning of the year, I did supply checks daily. Once students understood the importance of being responsible for their supplies, I did them less frequently; about once-per-week, or whenever I saw students needed reminders.

This system worked very well with my fourth and fifth graders. When I taught second grade, I used the same system but was a bit more flexible (especially at the beginning of the year). While many teachers are working in schools with students who are in poverty, teachers should not use this as an excuse. We need to instill responsibility in all of our students. While supplies seem like a little thing, it is in these little routines children learn life skills.

Comment below with your school supply routines. What works for you?

Grab the free school supplies list here! It is editable Adobe Reader! 


Back-to-School Around the World

It’s that time of year again! Parents are rejoicing, and teachers are prepping… School supplies, classroom d├ęcor, staff meetings, professional development… It’s back to school time! As you prepare your classroom for back-to-school, have you thought about the routines and traditions other children around the world have?

Through my resources, I strive to connect kids to the stories and traditions of other children who may have different traditions. This is why I created my differentiated reading unit on Back-to-School traditions around the world.

Did you know that kindergarten children in Germany receive paper cones filled with school supplies and treats? Children in Japan have a good luck back-to-school lunch of rice with seaweed sauce and quail eggs. In Russia, children bring flowers to their teacher.

Open the world to your students and teach them about cultures and traditions that are different from their own!

These differentiated passages are great for guided reading lessons, differentiated independent work, or homework. There are three levels, appropriate for grades 2-5. The passages are accompanied by text-based multiple-choice questions and two different writing prompts.

Click here to purchase:

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Preparing Students for Standardized Testing All Year

Standardized testing is underway or beginning for many schools. Teachers, students, and administration are feeling immense pressure to prepare their students. When I was in the classroom, the pressure affected all of us year-round. The focus was on data and preparing students for testing from the first to the last day of school. I ended up asking to move to second grade due to the testing pressure in fourth and fifth grade.

I was shocked when I moved to second grade to see that the pressure, while not as extreme, was still there! Throughout my years in second grade I worked to prepare students to become better readers, which in turn will make them better test-takers, so hopefully, some of the pressure was minimized when they entered third grade. I realized the importance of three things:

1. Teaching students to use text evidence to support their answers.
2. Using high-interest texts.
3. Scaffolding instruction appropriately, but using complex text for readers of all levels.

1. Teaching students to use text evidence to support their answers.
Almost every teacher, no matter what elementary grade they teach, can attest to how hard it is to get their students to use text evidence to support their answer choices. This is not a skill that should be taught only in upper elementary when preparing for standardized tests.
This is something that you should start as young as preschool! When reading to young children for enjoyment, you should discuss stop to discuss what is happening. Ask young children why they think what they think by pointing to the pictures. I do this with my two-year-old by asking questions like, “How does the little girl in the story feel?” If she tells me she is sad, I ask her to point to the picture that shows me she is sad.

In first grade, students should be able to circle or underline places in the picture and/or text to support their answers to literal questions. By second grade, students can be trained to find not only explicit answers in the text, but evidence that supports implicit conclusions they draw. If this is done consistently throughout first and second grade, it should be automatic for upper elementary students.
Not to say, students won’t try to take the “lazy” way out and not go back into the text. As a teacher, it is important to constantly expect your students to support their answers and never take anything less. I always refused to accept a paper from a student that did not have their answer underlined. It soon became a habit for students to prove their answers. Of course, this also takes constant modeling on the teacher’s part.

You’re probably thinking, “How boring! I want reading to be fun for my students.” While teaching and expecting students to use text evidence can be daunting, it can certainly be made fun. I recommend, when using a printable passage, you let students use color. My students always had a pencil box of rainbow colored pencils, and they would underline their answers in corresponding colors. You’d be amazed how much more engaged students become when you add coloring. This also makes it super easy for you to check that they are using text evidence! During independent reading, I would ask my students to use sticky notes to jot down their thinking. They would then place their sticky notes in their journal and have them ready to discuss with me during conferences. I did not expect or require them to do this all the time though. That will take the joy out of reading. The ultimate goal, after all, is for students to be able to internalize their thinking. When we read a book, we don’t write down every question or thought we have. It just comes naturally to us.

Once this process becomes a habit for your class, you will see it really doesn’t take the “fun” out of reading. Students start to enjoy their reading more because they are analyzing text and thinking more deeply.

2. Using high-interest texts.
Of course, we want our students to love reading, so we need to use high-interest texts! Use books and articles on topics that will interest your students. Find nonfiction books on topics your kids are interested in. In my comprehension units, I try to include high interest scientific and historical topics kids will want to know more about. When selecting fiction, I often choose books and passages about kids that kids can relate to.

3. Scaffolding instruction appropriately but using complex text for readers of all levels.
Differentiation is super important. We all know that. We need kids to regularly have access to text on their reading level that they can enjoy and comprehend without getting frustrated. However, there is a time and place to have students practice reading and responding to grade level text even if it is too difficult for them. If we use appropriate modeling and plenty of guided practice, many of our kids below level can analyze grade-level texts. After all, they will be encountering these texts on standardized testing.

We don’t want them to feel overwhelmed and insecure when testing cones. I have found that by teaching even our low readers a set of clear steps to tackle grade-level text, they can often be successful. It was for this purpose that I created my standards base comprehension packets in the first place. High-interest passages also motivate our below level students.

With that being said, it is important to offer more guidance through reteaching and small groups before we set them off to work on above-level text independently. It is also important to note, if you have students who are significantly below level and have no chance of being successful with a higher-level text, you don’t want to set them up for complete failure. I always taught the inclusion class, with about one-third of my students being exceptional. Usually, I was able to get most of these students to have some success with grade-level text. I might modify some of the short response questions, or just focus on their successes with the questions they could do. However, my last year in the classroom I had three children who were barely reading on a Fountas and Pinnell level A. These children were not able to tackle grade-level text with any success, so I did give them alternate passages they could be successful with.

If you’re looking for resources to help make using text evidence a habit, try my reading comprehension packets for fiction or nonfiction. I have packets for most standards for first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade. They can be found in my TpT store here.

5 Ways to Teach Your Preschooler About Colors

My daughter Madeline is now two. She loves going to preschool and learning. I am creating activities to do with Madeline to reinforce what she is learning in school. Currently, Madeline is learning all about colors. This has been a bit of a difficult concept for her, but I’ve created some activities to help her.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you order from one of my links, Amazon gives me a small percentage of the sale at no extra expense to you. This helps me maintain my blog. 

Five Ways to Teach Your Preschooler About Colors

1. Reading: First and foremost, to help Madeline learn about colors, we are reading lots and lots of books that incorporate colors. Here are our favorites:

    With eye-catching illustrations, Madeline loves this simple story of how a chameleon learns to accept his ability to change colors.
    This is a cute story that reinforces colors.
    Madeline loves pressing the animal sound buttons as we read this story!
    Madeline loves this story since it is so repetitive. She loves reading it with me and reading it to herself.
    This book has fun finger print textures. We love to look for the hidden objects in the pictures.
    This is a sweet story about a bunny who asks his friends help to figure out what makes a rainbow. Madeline loves how ribbon colors are added to the rainbow as you turn the page. This has been a favorite since she was a baby!

    2. Sorting Activities: I’ve created some simple and fun color sorting activities. Madeline loves these! Her favorite is the Animal Color Sort. She loves to stick and pull apart the Velcro.

    3. Coloring: I created this simple and fun coloring book. Preschoolers can easily learn to read this book themselves too!

    4. Science: Madeline loved this Rainbow Drops experiment. She Especially enjoyed making the drops with the colors and the medicine dropper and trying to mix the colors.

    5. Crafts: This is one of the crafts we made. While I needed to do all of the cutting, Madeline helped me paste the rainbow strips on the cloud and say the color names of each rainbow strip.

    For these activities and more, click here to purchase my Colors for Preschoolers product:

    Teaching Tolerance and Cultrual Diversity Through Literature

                   Teaching tolerance and cultural diversity to our students is so important in our world today. With the conflict in the Middle East, there has been a lot of discrimination and judgement towards Muslim people. This is a difficult topic to discuss with elementary age students. Despite it being difficult to discuss, I believe it is very important we find ways to teach students about different cultures. One of my favorite ways to teach about acceptance of different cultures is through books. Books help students get to know and connect with characters. This helps them realize the similarities we all have despite our differences.

    (This post contains Affiliate links.)

    The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania is an excellent book about two best friends getting into a fight because they think each other’s sandwiches look different and gross. The girls learn you shouldn’t judge things before you try them.

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is the story of a little girl moving from Korea to America. American students have trouble prononcing Unhei's name. She considers changing it becasue she thinks it will be hard to make friends if she is different.

    The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco is based on Patricia’s experience as a young girl when she was put in a special education classroom.

    The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is a chapter book appropriate for upper elementary and middle school about an eleven-year-old girl living in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule.

    You can purchase my unit to go along with the Sandwich Swap here:

    Place Value

    The Common Core Place Value standards are so important when teaching first and second graders. Understanding the meaning of ones, tens, and hundreds sets the foundation for counting, adding, and subtracting. When I teach place value, I emphasize the use of manipulatives with my students. I especially have success using place value blocks. I like place value blocks because students can see that a ten is composed of ten ones and a hundred is composed of one hundred ones.Place value blocks are also easy to manipulate.

    My students love Mr. R's Place Value Song! You can watch it here or on You Tube.
    He also has a TpT Store!
     Mr. R's Place Value Song

    In the beginning of the year, I like to reinforce place value with my students by doing a Number of the Day for morning work. The routine and repetition of Number of the Day really helps students gain number sense. You can use a printed sheet for number of the day, but if your copies are limited, this Rainbow Number of the Day worked great for my class.

                     Sample Number of the Day Poster- Just Laminate and hang on the board.

    I just created this poster and had students fill in each section with the corresponding color in their Number of the Day Journal. In the beginning of the year, we went over the Number of the Day as a class. As students mastered this concept, I took a few minutes to check student journals and pull small groups as needed.
    Example of student journal using Rainbow Number of the Day Poster

    My students also loved making a Place Value Book. 

    The book, along with other worksheets, a scoot game, and a quiz can be found in my first and second grade place value packet on TpT. 


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