Celebrating Birthdays Without Sweets and Treats

Unpopular opinion: I hate celebrating birthdays in the classroom.

Okay, that statement isn’t entirely true. I love celebrating my students, but I cannot stand the mountains of cupcakes, cakes, ice-cream treats, jello, and candies that are inevitably brought into the classroom.  One student even brought in a pot of spaghetti on the morning of his birthday.  I wish I was joking.

Celebrating elementary school birthdays in the classroom without sweets and treats.  – Poet Prints Teaching

While I do believe that birthdays are a great opportunity to celebrate each individual student, the sugary treats and unanticipated meals can make our day quite difficult.  Have you tried teaching 30 third-graders who are very hyper on cupcakes with mile-high-icing?  I have, and it is not easy.  Then multiply that by 20-30 different birthdays in the class… it’s a lot of sugar.  And when students spontaneously bring in a lunchtime item to share (spaghetti, hot dogs, pizza, etc.) there just often isn’t time to pass it out and eat it before the lunch bell rings.  At our school students get 20 minutes to eat lunch and passing out ‘special birthday lunch’ without notice means that students forego their outside playtime.

I also have a handful of students with a restricted diet (allergies, family preferences, naturopathic suggestions) and days with food treats just end up making many students feel left out.

There are so many other great ways to celebrate students and their birthdays without sugary treats. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Plan a game or activity for the class.  Bring in a soccer ball, parachute or any group game and have students play something together.

  2. Bring an in-class activity. I’ve had students bring in a small drawing project, an outdoor game, or a quick STEM challenge

  3. In lieu of cake/candy, families are welcome to bring in a small toy or pencil

  4. Do something different – last year we decorated an 11x17 piece of paper for each student.  In the center of the paper, I wrote “Happy Birthday Joe” in large letters.  As students arrived they wrote a short encouraging note on the paper.  Then, the birthday student took a picture holding the sign and wearing a birthday hat.  This was a great keepsake for the student and the picture looked awesome on a bulletin board. 

Don’t have time for a celebration like this at every birthday?  Try picking one day per month to celebrate birthdays!  Students love knowing that a celebration is coming and I like to be able to plan ahead of time for these activities.  Plus, it allows all monthly birthdays to participate, even if their family has not sent in a game or activity!  

I’d love to know how you celebrate birthdays in your classroom.  Does your school have any rules about sugary treats?  Let me know in the comments below or find me on Instagram! (@poet.prints)

Celebrating elementary school birthdays in the classroom without sweets and treats.  – Poet Prints Teaching
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5 Things to Do Before School Starts

Can you believe that some schools are mere weeks away from Back to School time? Are you one of those teachers who is winding down their summer and starting to think about Back to School? I’ve never been one to really ‘unplug’ from school altogether over the summer, but I do use the time to make/create things for my classroom that are fun for me.  (Like a good DIY or cute classroom signs). Whether you are a new teacher or returning after 15 years, there are always a handful of things that need to be done before school starts again. Some are just decisions that need to be made, and others are small projects that will make the first weeks much easier.

5 things that every teacher should do and decide before school starts! - Poet Prints Teaching

1. Figure out what to do with supplies

Does your district have students bring in supplies on the first day of school? Do you buy them yourself?  In my school, we do a combination of both. On the first day of school, students arrive with backpacks full of school supplies.  You’ll need to know what you plan to do with these! Are you having students store all of their supplies in their desks? Will you keep some of their supplies in a cupboard/drawer to be distributed throughout the year? Will you gather some up as communal supplies? Decide your preference and think through what you will do with the supplies as they arrive.

2. Decide what you will do with student work

This one goes along with #1. Do you plan to have students store all of their notebooks and pronged folders in their lockers/desks? Will you keep them separate and sorted by subject area on a classroom shelf? This is important to know ahead of time as it will help you to stay organzied in the first few weeks.  If you plan to keep all of their notebooks and folders separate then the first days of school are the perfect time to collect and label all of these books.  I blogged about how I store student work over here.  

 

5 things that every teacher should do and decide before school starts! - Poet Prints Teaching

3. Determine your attention-getters

In elementary school, routine is key!  Decide what method you will use to get students’ attention and start practicing this on day one.  When you are consistent with one or two attention-getters, your students are able to respond quickly… freeing up a lot of time for you! Here are a few of my favorites: call and response, lights dimmed, hands up high, counting down from 5, a silent hand-gesture that signals it's time to pause and listen.

4. Start a substitute teacher document

I know what you’re thinking… school hasn’t even started yet and you think I should already be planning for a sub?  Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. A couple of years ago I had a medical emergency on the second day of school and was out for two weeks.  Boy, do I wish I had written down my classroom procedures, expectations, and expected routines ahead of time. Even just an interim document can be a lifesaver in case of unintended time off.  Check here for my 5 things that you’ll definitely want to include in your sub plans.

5 things that every teacher should do and decide before school starts! - Poet Prints Teaching

5. Find something to do for the first few days

This one might seem obvious, but you should have the first few days of school totally planned before you head back into school.  This is a great time to introduce some fun theme-based lessons as you get to know your students and assess their learning needs. There are lots of ways to kick off the year.  You could theme your lessons around a book, start with some engaging STEM, or jump right in with your regular schedule. No matter what, I definitely suggest having some quick-activities on hand in case a lesson is interrupted or just doesn’t go to plan.  I created this booklet to help me quickly assess student learning styles and get to know my new students a little bit better.

Did I miss anything? I’d love to know your must-do’s before school starts!  Send me a message or sound off in the comments below.

5 things that every teacher should do and decide before school starts! - Poet Prints Teaching
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4 Resources for the First Week Back at School

Anyone heading back to school soon? Although I still have 6 weeks until I’m back, I have a hard time really resting each summer until I’ve squared away the first week back.  Once I have a rough outline of what I’m going to do and teach those first few days.  I’m hopping on today to share a handful of the resources I’ve created in the past that were designed especially for the first week of school. I’ve used them all in my classroom and plan to start the year with them again!

Back to school resources for the first week back in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Back to School Workbook (with a twist!)

This little booklet is my absolute favorite resource for the beginning of school.  Although it’s filled with puzzles, games, quizzes and writing activities… they are all designed to help teachers assess basic student skills, learning styles and preferences.  I use the information gathered to plan out my next few weeks of lessons, review, and our yearly group projects!

The best resources to make the first week back to school a breeze - Poet Prints Teaching

All About Me Spinning Craftivity (FREE)

Learn a little bit more about your students with a cute craftivity.  (Grab it here!) We brainstorm together on the planning pages and then create cute spinners that let students share about themselves.  Best of all, this one is totally free!

4 resources that are perfect for the first week back at school in elementary! - Poet prints Teaching

Back to School Flipbooks

4 resources that are perfect for the first week back at school in elementary! - Poet Prints Teaching

After the All About Me Craftivity, my students transition into more writing-based work.  I have used these flipbooks in First-Fourth grade. They help students to reflect on their summer and transition into the year ahead.  I like to use them as a quick gauge of students’ ability to work independently and see what their writing abilities and needs are.

‘We Fit Together’ Bulletin Board

Once my class is settled (there’s always a few days of shuffling students in my district) I start on lessons and activities that build classroom community.  The whole year runs better when the students in my class learn to respect each other’s differences and work together as a big family.  One of my favorite bulletin boards is this one!  Students each create a puzzle piece and then we fit them together to make one diverse puzzle bulletin board!

4 resources that are perfect for the first week back at school in elementary! - Poet Prints Teaching
4 resources that you need to make back to school in third grade so much easier!  - poet prints teaching
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Organizing Student Work

Keeping track of student work can be a headache in most classrooms.  In the schools I’ve worked at, I’ve seen a lot of different ways to organize work.  Some teachers let the students keep all of their work, some store it all on shelves in the classroom, others do a hybrid of both.  I don’t think there’s any “right” way to do this, but I do know what has worked best for my students and me.

How to keep student work organized all year long! - Poet Prints Teaching

I have always chosen to keep most student work in labeled ‘buckets’ on the shelf.  It’s not that I don’t trust my students to keep their own work organized, it’s that many of them simply haven’t learned that skill yet.  

Technically, these are laundry buckets and I get them from the local dollar store.  I keep them in the same place and use dollar store labels to create one for every subject/topic we are covering.  Before we start something, 3-4 kids grab the bucket and hand out the work to their peers. After the work is finished, each student is responsible for putting their work back in the correct bucket.  I find that this step helps to build a bit of independence. Students learn that their work needs to be put in the proper place or else it won’t be marked.

This isn’t a fix-all to student work organization.  Some students will still put their work in their desks or backpacks, but eventually, they learn how to pause and check for where it should actually be.  I’m trying to build independence and responsibility at an age-appropriate level.

When it comes time to hand-in work, I place a mini-checklist beside each bucket.  As a student hands in their work, they also check off their name. It’s a quick way to see who has forgotten to hand in their work.  

My favorite part of the system - I can just grab a bucket and take it home to mark!

How to keep student work organized all year long! - Poet Prints Teaching
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Third Grade Math Manipulative Must Haves

One of my favorite parts of my classroom is the math manipulative shelf.  I try to keep it stocked with a variety of materials that can help students build concrete models of all sorts of math problems.  

Bingo Dots - a must have math manipulative in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

We have a rule in my class: if you can’t solve a math problem on your own you must build it before asking for help.  So much of third-grade math is abstract: the perimeter of imaginary places, the area of imaginary floors and walls, fractions of abstract objects, imaginary money being exchanged between two people, etc.  These can all be tricky concepts to visualize mentally.

Our school has never provided any math manipulatives, but I have slowly gathered a set of must-have manipulatives for third grade.  Check them out!

Bears

My students love counting bears.  They are easy to grasp and can help to model addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These come in especially handy as students are learning to multiply and divide.  

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Bingo Dots

These are a particularly inexpensive manipulative.  Along with our bears we use bingo dots to make physical representations of most addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems.  One of my favorite ways to use bingo dots is during our first multiplication lesson of the year. We build arrays with bingo dots.  It's a quick and easy lesson that is super hands-on!  

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Fraction Pieces and Magnets

I always introduce fractions with manipulatives.  Having students build fractions really helps them to develop a concrete understanding of how you can have a fraction of an item. Although there are many cut-and-glue fraction sets, I prefer to use store-bought ones. I just find that when students cut them out their pieces are not always exact, and this leads to confusion when trying to compare fractions.

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching
Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Money

Play money is a great manipulative to add.  In third grade, we spend a lot of time counting counts and subtracting money.  I have a handful of students who prefer to count physical money and this is great for them!  When doing word problems about ‘buying something at a store’ my students know how to role-play this in pairs and use play money to find their answer.

Clocks

Teaching time (especially quarter-to, quarter-past, and half-past) is such a tricky part of third-grade math.  I always teach the first time lessons with each student holding a clock.  Then, as they get to these questions in their homework and independent practice they are able to return to those clocks to physically create each time (or elapsed time) that is needed.  I love how using a clock really helps to cement this concept for most students!

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching

Drawing Paper

This is the least expensive of all my manipulatives!  I keep a stack of scrap paper in my math manipulative area. I find that it is super helpful when students are able to draw out a problem - particularly when it involves distance (i.e. “A car travels 250 miles…”) or area/perimeter.  Some of my students are super successful when they are able to make a quick sketch and add in dimensions to visualize the ‘whole picture’.

I’m always looking to add to my math manipulative collection.  What works best in your class? Send me an e-mail or sound off in the comments below!

 

Must-have math manipulatives in third grade - Poet Prints Teaching
My 4 Favorite Activities in a Pinch

We’ve all had ‘those days’ in the classroom.  You know what I mean, the days where it seems like nothing can go right.  The math lesson flopped, the social studies’ guest speaker canceled at the last minute, a child is in tears because their paper is” too wrinkled”… and you are about to lose it.  This is #teacherlife, am I right?

4 quick elementary classroom activities for when you're having 'one of those days'.

I am currently spending a year substitute teaching, and I can’t tell you how many days I have walked into a classroom to a plan that says “Find something to do for reading, writing, math, and PE” or, better yet, walked into no plan at all.  

These days are inevitable, and they happen to everyone.  This year, more than any, I’ve learned to have a handful of on-the-go games ready at any time.  These games can fill a few minutes and allow you to gather your thoughts before you proceed with the day.  Sometimes I use them as a ‘re-set’ after a tough lesson. Hopefully, they can help you as well!

Activity 1: Silent Ball

I always keep a small dollar store ball in my teaching bag for this very game.  In Silent Ball, students sit (gasp!) on top of their desks. Then, a ball is passed to the first student.  The goal of the game is to keep the ball moving around the classroom without dropping it or making a peep. If the ball is dropped or someone speaks the round is over.  You can keep ‘score’ by counting how many passes are done, or timing how long the students can keep the ball going without dropping it. I love this game because it is cooperative and forces students to work together to achieve their goal.  

Activity 2: Charades

Charades for Elementary School - from Poet Prints teaching

I almost always have a deck of charades cards in my teaching bag.  This game is great for almost all levels, and meets some important Speaking and Listening outcomes at the same time. I play charades in a few ways.  First, we play the classic version where students have to act out the card pulled. I also play an alternate version where they have 30 seconds to describe as many cards as they can.  Then, after all cards have been described, students have another 30 seconds to describe the cards using only one word. That one is a lot of fun, and usually draws on students’ memory from the previous round.  I haven’t yet met a class that doesn’t like a charades break!

Activity 3: Go Noodle

Wiggly group? Energy coming out of everywhere?  Go Noodle is my best friend in these occasions. Accounts are free for teachers, and there is plenty of free content to get your students up, sweating, and moving around.  My younger students love “Koo Koo Kangaroo” while my older students prefer “Fresh Start Fitness”. So far, all kids from K-5 have loved the track-and-field style channel “Go With the Pro”.

No internet connection or projector?  Keep a few high-energy, kid-friendly songs, ready to go on your smartphone.  A quick game of freeze dance will have almost the same effect on K-3 students!

Activity 4: Four Corners

This is a classic in-school game and for a good reason.  Students love being able to get out of their desk and try to win in a game of Four Corners.  To play this game, label each ‘corner’ of the classroom 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then designate a student to be “it”.  This students sits in the middle of the room with a blindfold (or very covered eyes) and slowly counts down from 10.  During this time, students must sneak to one of the designated corners. The ‘it’ students then yells out a corner number, and all of the students in that corner are out.  The game continues until only one student is left. To keep things moving, I tend to ‘close’ a corner as fewer students remain in the game. By the end, the final few students are only allowed to choose from two of the corners.

What are your go-to activities for a tough day?  Do you have any favorite classroom games or activities? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

4 quick classroom activities that you need to know - Poet Prints Teaching
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Walking in a Paraprofessional's Shoes

I think we’ve all heard the expression about walking in someone else’s shoes for the day. However, we don’t get the opportunity to do this very often. One of my dear friends had an interesting opportunity a couple weeks ago that she was telling me about. She says this was the hardest job she has ever had to do. Here’s her story of walking in someone else’s shoes.

4 Lessons from my day as a paraprofessional - Poet Prints Teaching

Hi everyone! I’m a primary teacher in Canada. In my class, I have a little girl who has severe learning needs. I will call her Joanne for anonymity. In Canada, kids with severe special needs get 1:1 support from an Educational Assistant or Paraprofessional (Para) within the regular classroom. The Para might occasionally pull the student out of class for breaks and assist the child in the washroom. However, the goal is to stay in the classroom for as long as possible.

I was able to work with Joanne for two days straight when the regular Para was unable to be at school. My school called in a substitute teacher to cover my class. Since Joanne has such extreme learning needs with a specific schedule, it was easier to call a substitute teacher to teach my class than to arrange for a substitute for Joanne’s Para. The school figured having a familiar person would be comforting to Joanne.

Over the course of the two days, I learned a lot. For starters, people who work with kids who have special needs are champions. They are working to give all kids dignity and strategies for success.  Every day, they have to make split-second decisions to help calm temper meltdowns, adapt work, and help the child interact with their peers in successful ways.

Since I was not Joanne’s regular Para, Joanne had countless meltdowns throughout the day. I ended up sitting on the floor with Joanne more times than I could count, just waiting for Joanne to finish her meltdown and stand up.

At the end of my two days, I came away with some epiphanies:

  1. Tracing Worksheets are not enough. Prior to this experience, I would simply create worksheets that allowed Joanne to trace letters and words. I thought I was so clever! At the beginning of the year, Joanne loved these exercises, but like every kid, Joanne progressed. She quickly mastered tracing and was bored of these worksheets. I saw first hand how upset Joanne would get when she saw another tracing activity. I have now committed to making interactive activities for Joanne, such as velcro activities or hands-on manipulative activities.

  2. Other students should be involved. I saw that Joanne wanted to be with her peers, but didn’t yet have the skills to know how to interact with them. I’m now asking others students to approach Joanne and initiate activities.

  3. Communication is more than words. Even though Joanne is non-verbal, communication has so many other forms. After being with Joanne for two days, I started to pick up on things Joanne did for communication. For one, Joanne would grab my hand and direct it to an object that she wants. Joanne communicated that she wanted to paint during free time by guiding me to the paint supplies.

  4. First _________, then ________”. I learned the beauty of the phrase, “First _______, then ________”. I think we’ve all used this phrase at one time or another: “First Math, then snack”, “First clean up, then home time”, etc. As teachers, we use this for big-ticket items. However, I learned that for some kids with special needs, this phrase needs to be used in much smaller increments. I found myself saying things like, “First stand up, then walk” or “First apples, then water”.

This was the hardest job I have done in a long time. However, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because it has helped me reflect on my own teaching practices and I am already making the necessary changes.”


There you have it! A tale from one of my fellow teachers. Have any of you had an opportunity to walk is someone else’s shoes? Or have you had the chance to work for an extended period of time with a student who has special needs? I would love to hear about your experiences! And I can pass along any tidbits to my teacher-friend!

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Conflict in the Classroom

How often have you just wanted to pull your hair out because the students won’t get along? No classroom is immune from conflict. And conflict comes in all varieties: fights, misbehavior, kids being rude, you name it. How many times have you heard some of these in your classroom:

“He started it!”
“It wasn’t me!”
“Dooonnnn’ttt!”
** eye roll **
“I don’t need to listen to you!”
** budging in line**
“Teacher! He pushed me!”

Conflict in the Classroom by Poet Prints Teaching

How many times have you witnessed something like this in your classroom? How often have you just wanted to pull your hair out because the kids won’t get along? No classroom is immune from conflict. And conflict comes in all varieties: fights, misbehavior, kids being rude, you name it. What can we do when our students do something wrong? I’ve had to privilege of working alongside some gifted teachers who have taught me a lot about dealing with conflict and I’ve learned some helpful things along the way as well.

Talk It Out

When given the opportunity, most students are quite articulate. Try to get to the root of the problem and give the student a chance to speak. All too often, the teacher does most of the talking; sometimes it’s important to do most of the listening. Often times, problem behavior comes from something else. Chances are, the students are not acting up because they want to misbehave. Rather, they might be tired, hungry, sad, or a plethora of other reasons. By giving students an opportunity to talk, you feed a positive student-teacher relationship. Through talking and listening, you show your students that you care about their thoughts and feelings.

Give Space

Give your students space to cool down, if necessary. The immediate moment following an incident may not be the best time to debrief. Let the student go for a walk down the hall, or sit outside the door. Some classrooms use a cool down space to give students a safe place to regulate their emotions before they are ready to talk things through. You can find more information about this in my post about anxiety. 

Give Perspective

After a student does something wrong, it’s important to help the student see how his or her actions affected others. Young children, especially, are quite self-interested. They do not readily think about cause and effect. Thus, we have a responsibility to teach them how their actions involve others and affect them. Some may come to this realization on their own, others may need help. Perspective can be taught through role-playing, drawing the situation, social stories or a graphic organizer. I use these behavior reflections to help students to reflect on what happened and reach conclusions about how their actions affected others.

Teach Restoration

Students need lessons on how to ‘make it right’ after an incident occurs. In my classroom, after I have talked through an incident with a student, it always ends with an apology and a way to ‘make it right’ with the person that was hurt. A Kindergarten teacher friend teaches her kiddos to say “I’m sorry. What can I do to make it better?” This gives the student who was hurt an opportunity to feel cared for. I’ve also seen teachers encourage students to draw a picture, ask the person to play at lunch, or share a snack with the person (although some schools have strict policies against sharing food). I’ve found that apology letters also work quite well. Plus, this integrates literacy into character building! 

Conflict is present in every classroom and in every grade. No classroom is immune. But there are many things that we, as teachers, can do that will help our students build character. If you’ve discovered any tips and tricks that have helped you, feel free to share!

 

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Conflict in the Classroom - a blog post by Poet Prints Teaching
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Media Literacy and Critical Thinking

Last year, in Third Grade,  we had a bad case of the “I Wants”.  My students wanted absolutely everything they saw on TV, or in a movie, or in the advertisements that pop up on YouTube. If they saw it, they had to have it.  ‘Show and Tell’ became a constant list of the toys students wanted to get and buy. Every day someone came into the class with a new item that they ‘had to have’.

Media literacy and critical thinking in elementary - a blog post by Poet Prints Teaching

I wanted my kids to know that they were being advertised to, plain and simple. Most of these ‘wants’ and ‘gimmes’ were the direct result of good advertising.  I wanted my students to have the tools to see this for what it was, a clever marketing campaign where they were the perfect targets.  I thoroughly believed that they were capable of looking at Media with a critical eye.   

Once we defined different types of media we got to work looking for them in our everyday lives. We started by cutting up and sorting our Scholastic book order to help students to see that all media has a purpose: to persuade, to inform, and to entertain.   It was fun to see them try and see which books fit into which categories. As a teacher, I loved that ‘lightbulb’ when my students realized that their book order was designed to make them want to purchase things.

“Mrs. P, I know why this is in bright colors!  So we will want everything on it!” BINGO!

Using our class book order flyer helped students to make a real-life connection to the content. 

Together, we looked at clips from popular movies and examined how characters always hold the latest gadgets, toys, and treats. Another way to convince us to buy, buy, BUY!  But my favorite lessons, by far, were the ones where we explored YouTube.   My students love YouTube, but the dreaded before-video-ads make me cringe.  This unit helped us to look at those ads critically, and use the advertisement time as teachable moments.  What are we being sold? Why is this ad here? How are we being persuaded?  

It was so rewarding to watch my students develop as critical thinkers.  I noticed a huge change in their attitudes towards “I Want” as the year progressed.  Sure, they still wanted new toys and treats, but they were ‘calling out’ persuasion tactics they saw in the media.  A student even came home from a superhero movie on the weekend and told me about all the products he had seen on the screen.  

“Do they think we will fall for that?” he asked.  

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud.

My Media Literacy Unit is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It’s perfect for third, fourth, or fifth grade.

 

Media Literacy and Critical Thinking - a blog post by Poet Prints Teaching
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Five Ways to Review for any Test

Quizzes and tests are inevitable when it comes to teaching. And as teachers, we need to help our students feel prepared and successful prior to the test. It’s not enough to give study guides and do practice tests. But what can we do?

5 ways to review for any test - Poet Prints Teaching

I think all of us have had that moment sitting in front of our computer, Google opened, trying to search out how to engage our students in lesson reviews before tests. I’ve been in that place multiple times. Over the years, I’ve discovered some fun and engaging ways to review for any test. Here are some of them:

Test Review 1: Stump the Panel

This is a game where all students come up with a set of quiz questions. Several students are chosen to be on a panel and they sit in a row of chairs at the front of the class. The remaining students are in the audience and they are responsible for asking questions of the panel. If one of the panel students does not answer a question correctly, they will take a seat in the audience and be replaced by the student who asked the question.  Learn more here!  

Test Review 2: Kahoot

This is a website based game. I love creating purposeful review activities and this website is a fantastic tool. On Kahoot, teachers are able to program in questions that they would like the students to answer. I have my students bring in their devices (or you can use school devices). Then I group my students together and give them the access information for the website. On their devices, they can pick their answers to the review questions and see a growing graph of what answers other students picked. This also provides a quick check for me, so I can see who might need some extra review.

Photo from  getkahoot.com

Photo from getkahoot.com

Test Review 3:  Flashcards

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Students really do need to be taught to create flashcards or study notes. It’s an essential skill that they will use throughout all their education. However, flashcards do not need to be stagnant. I once had a parent tell me that she inserted “Gummy Worm” cards throughout the flashcard deck. As she quizzed her daughter on sight words, the “Gummy Worm” card would come up every once in awhile. She would then give her daughter a gummy worm. Her daughter LOVES doing sight word flashcards now.

Test Review 4:  Quiz Takeover

Students often like to put on their teacher hats. Give students an opportunity to “think like a teacher” and predict the quiz questions. Then have them write a few quiz questions for their peers and coach their peers through the answers. If you’re interested in a template for this review activity, you can find it in my TpT store.

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Test Review 5: Charades or Drama

I like doing charades or dramas because it lets students interact with each other and move around. Another bonus is these movement games take virtually no preparation! To play charades, throw a bunch of the unit vocabulary words into a hat and have students act out the words without saying anything. Alternatively, you can have students create a short drama to enforce vocabulary terms. For example, if you were learning about the lifecycle of a plant, students could pretend they are a plant growing through the stages of seed, germination, seedling, young plant, and mature plant. While this might make some students uncomfortable, it will definitely give your kinesthetic learners a chance to shine.

I’m always looking to expand my repertoire of review games and activities. Have you discovered any that work well for you?
 

5 ways to review for any test - Poet Prints Teaching
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Building Solid Parent and Teacher Relationships

“Let me know if I can help you with anything”
“You’re not meeting my child’s needs.”
“Thanks for being a great teacher!”
“You give too much homework.”
“You don’t give enough homework.”

Building Relationships with Parents - Poet Prints Teaching

These are all things that parents have said to me in the last couple of years. And if you’re anything like me, you’re a perfectionist and some of these things are hard to hear. You work so hard towards creating engaging lessons, building good student-teacher relationships and organizing your time well. But there always seems to be some parents who are hard to connect with. By all means, I am not an expert on building perfect parent-teacher relationships, but I have learned some tricks over the past few years that have greatly minimized misunderstandings and hurts.

Tip One: Meet Parents as Soon as Possible

This is key to starting a positive relationship. I like to have quick chats with each parent after school as they are picking their children up. Usually, I’m able to connect with each parent at some point in the first week or two after school. However, sometimes parents work long shifts, or daycare comes to pick up the children, so I don’t get a chance to talk with them in person. For those parents, I will call them on the phone. During these brief conversations, I’ll introduce myself, and get to know the parents a little bit. If the conversations lead to it, I’ll even ask them about their greatest hopes for the year.

Tip Two: Stay Positive

Say as many positive things as possible. This helps parents trust that you see their kid and recognize their child’s positive attributes. It also helps when you have to have those inevitable tougher conversations. When a tough conversation comes around, the parents know that you have seen the positive things about their child too.

Positive Notes by Poet Prints Teaching

Tip Three: Stay in Contact

Find out how parents want to be contacted and make sure that information is getting home. Information should be sent home in a few consistent ways.  Kids’ backpacks often become black abysses, where notices and information get crumpled up and lost. I’ve learned to never assume that information is getting home when I give it to a child. I will often follow up with an email or a reminder to make sure parents received the information. On the other hand, some families don’t have internet at home, so they might not be getting your super-informative emails. Thus, you might want to print off the emails to give those parents a hard copy. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to parent-teacher communication. You’ll have to find the method that works best for you :)

Photo by  William Iven  on  Unsplash

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Tip Four: Send Information Home

How many times have you asked a child what they did during the day and they respond, “Nothing.” We all know that this isn’t true, but kids often forget what they did during the day. An easy solution to help parents out is to send home information about what you are doing during the day. This might be in emails, through an app, a notice, or whatever method works best for you. Did you do a great science experiment? Send home a picture or a quick message. Did you watch a youtube clip to introduce a new concept? Send the link home, so parents can watch it again with their child. By sending home these sneak peaks of the day to the parents, you give them a starting point for conversations with the students. These conversations make you, as the teacher, look really good.

Do you have any awesome ways to create and sustain strong parent-teacher relationships? I would love to hear your tips and tricks.

Building Relationships with parents  - Poet Prints Teaching
Rachel PoetkerComment
Morning Devotions for Kids

Devotions - spending time with the Lord for a focused period of time. Morning devotions with kids - spending time with the Lord for a focused period of time, and teaching kids the importance of following God. This is so important! But sometimes it’s hard to do because we lack ideas. If you’re anything like me, you like to establish routines in your classroom, and finding a devotion routine for school (or at home!) can be tricky.

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Despite all the excuses that I come up with - my biggest one being “I don’t have time today”, I have discovered that devotions help to ground my day. When my students come in, they do morning work. Let’s be practical, we need those few minutes to talk to parents, organize backpacks, etc, etc. But right after that, we all sit together at the carpet for devotions. I find that doing devotions in the morning is a way to invite Jesus into the day. It sets the tone for the day: we are first focused on Christ, then our endeavors of the day. It reminds the students (and me!) about the importance of obeying and trusting God in everything we do.

Devotions are important for every age, so here are some suggestions for devotional books that can help you establish a routine in your classroom (or at home), no matter which age group you teach.

Pre-K and Kindergarten: Read and Share Bedtime Bible and Devotional, by Gwen Ellis

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Although titled “Bedtime Bible”, it does not have to be read at bedtime. This book is full of short Bible stories written in kid-friendly language, with colorful illustrations. Each story is only about 50 words long, and at the end there is a discussion question. Since the stories are short, more than one story could be read and discussed.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade: Betty Luken’s Flannelgraph, by Betty Luken

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Both the Kindergarten teacher and 1st Grade teachers at my school use flannelgraph when teaching Bible stories. Betty Luken’s book is written in the form of a narrative story, with flannel pieces to accompany it. The K and 1 teachers will do one story in the morning, then chat about the story and pray. Later in the day, during play centers, the students can use the flannelgraph pieces to retell the story. The kids love doing this!

2nd and 3rd Grade: The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Llyod-Jones

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In my room, we use the “Storybook Bible”, which has beautifully written stories that focus on God’s plan for the world and our need for a Saviour. We gather on the carpet to read one story a day. This way, all students are super familiar with the “Big Picture” of the Bible. After reading, we talk briefly about the story and then take time to pray.

2nd, 3rd or 4th Grade: The One Year Book of Devotions for Kids

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If you’re looking for something that goes beyond Bible stories and delves into specific Bible passages, this is the book for you. Each day, there is a short Scripture to read, followed by a short narrative story about modern-day kids who have to practice the virtue or principle outlined in the Scripture passage. At the end, are discussion questions and suggestions for a Bible Memory Verses.

4th Grade: Jesus Calling - 365 Devotions for Kids, by Sarah Young adapted by Tama Fortner

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This book is written as if Jesus is speaking to the children. Each page starts with a Bible verse. Then there’s a short passage, written from Jesus’  point of view, telling the students about how wonderful His plans are and how He wants them to live their lives. This book does require students to have a background knowledge of the Bible, so that’s why it’s better for older children who have some foundational knowledge.

These are only a handful of the resources that my teacher-friends and I have used for our morning devotions with our students. There are so many wonderful books and routines out there. What are some of your suggestions and tried-and-true routines?

- Rachel

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Rachel PoetkerComment