Posts tagged classroom life
5 Things Missing From Your Sub Plans

This year, my teaching career looks very different from the past few.  After university, I was super lucky to land a third-grade teaching contract, and I stayed there until this past June.  After moving to a new city over the summer,  I am trying something different.  While we get settled somewhere into our new house and community,  I am taking the year to be a substitute teacher in our local public district (or, as we call it up here in BC, a TTOC, Teacher Teaching On Call). 


It's been fun to pop into many different grade levels for the day and see how different teachers and schools choose to run their classrooms.  Most often, teachers leave me wonderful day plans with exactly what I need to teach each day.  (However, I have been very thankful for emergency plans on days that there has been nothing left!)  

In looking through many, many different 'sub plans' I've noticed that most are missing a few key pieces of information that would make my day, as a substitute teacher, so much easier.  Here are the things I wish all sub plans would include:

Your Usual Attention-Getter

How do you usually get the attention of the students in your room? Are you a clapper?  Do you do a call-and-answer?  Do you ring a bell?  Does someone turn the lights off?  As a sub, it can be almost impossible to establish a new attention-grabbing routine in a day or two, and kids respond best to what they are familiar with.  When a teacher leaves this key piece of information in his/her plans, it helps to set me up for success! 

Extra Class Lists

So often, substitute teachers are only given one class list for attendance, and then it is required to go back to the office first thing in the morning.  The rest of the day, I am without a complete class list.  I love when the teacher has left a few easy-to-find copies of the class list somewhere readily accessible.  

Important Routines

I have found that students thrive on routines, so when a substitute teacher arrives, they can be very thrown off by familiar routines that are not 'done right'.  If you have an important routine in your classroom - morning meeting, end-of-day dismissal, birthday songs, line up, how centers are chosen, etc.  write down the procedure to help different substitute teachers maintain the routines while you are away.  

Off Limits Items

Regardless of how 'on' I am as a teacher, there will always be one or two students who try to get away with things that the classroom teacher would not normally allow.  If there are things in your classroom that the students can't use, touch, or do - jot them down in your sub notes.  

Student Notes

As a classroom teacher, you have days (and weeks, and months) to try and 'figure out' some of the tougher students.  Substitute teachers have only minutes.  If you have a student with special needs, or a student who may need some behavior help, write down some of the strategies that have been successful.  As a sub, we want to help your students be successful, but the best way to do this is to partner alongside the work that you are already doing daily in the classroom.  

Have I missed anything?  Is there anything that you include in your sub plans that is a lifesaver for your students?  Let me know in the comments below!

- Rachel

Love Languages in the Classroom

Have you ever heard of Love Languages? I use them all of the time in my marriage and I try to show care and kindness to my friends in ways that speak to their love languages as well.  But have you ever thought about using them in the classroom to help your students interact with each other and show care in a more meaningful way? 

If you have never heard of love languages, the basic premise is that there are five basic ways that we all receive and give love: gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, and words of affirmation. Through the love languages quiz, you can find out the primary and secondary way that you like to receive love. 

I wanted to try this out in my classroom because I had a group of kids who both loved to give physical touch and did not like to receive it.  It was a really weird contrast.  They were a very ‘touchy’ group without any sense that no one else wanted to be hugged/touched in return.  I thought that exploring Love Languages might give them other tools to show their care and concern in a way that could be better received. 

So we did the quiz individually, as a teacher-led activity.  You can find a paper-based version of the quiz in the book “5 Love Languages of Children” or, if you have access to computers or tablets, there is a free version of the quiz available online from the official Love Languages book website.  Using the paper-based version, I walked my students through each question and we tallied up their primary and secondary love languages. Each student was given a post-it note and they charted their top two Love Languages.  

It was so interesting to see how my students like to receive love – it was definitely different than I would have expected.

It was so interesting to see how my students like to receive love – it was definitely different than I would have expected.

Then we met on the carpet to talk about it.  Of course, we all loved parts of all of the Love Languages, but after talking, most agreed that these were their favorite ways to receive love. Together, we brainstormed ways that we could show love to our friends that would match up with their Love Languages.  

  • Play a board game with someone who is quality time

  • Give a high-five to someone who is physical touch

  • Write a note to someone who is words of affirmation

  • Tidy a friend’s cubby if they are acts of service

  • Make a craft for someone who is gifts

It was so fun to brainstorm ways to show love to our friends in a way that they like to receive it.  We hung up our Love Languages chart in a clear spot in the classroom for the next couple of months so that the students could easily see it. As a teacher, I enjoyed watching my kids head back to that chart frequently to find a name on it to see a way they could ‘bless’ someone else.  It really helped to build character and empathy in my students and encouraged them to put the needs of their peers far above their own needs.

Have you ever used Love Languages in your classroom?  I’m already starting to plan ways to go ‘bigger’ with this in the future. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

- Rachel Love Languages in the Classroom
Christmas Gift Tags

December is a busy time at home and in the classroom.  In third grade we are busily creating small gifts (ornaments this year) for our parents, writing 'encouragement notes' for older students in the school, and trying madly to make a little gift for our first grade younger buddies.  It's a wonderful time of year, but oh boy is it exhausting!

To help remember who created each ornament, card, and gift, I have made gift tags for students to attach on each of their homemade presents.

Our presents home to our families will feature gift tags with Nativity scene:

(Nativity Gift Tags - download here )

Our presents to our little buddies have gift these cute little Christmas figures and a few song lyrics:

(Cute Student Gift Tags - download here)

And I have special tags just for gifts that will go from staff to staff:

(Watercolor gift cards - download here. )

I have all of these gift tags packaged together as a free download on my Teachers Pay Teachers page as a small Christmas present from me to you.  Thank you for reading my blog and visiting my little TpT shop.

Merry Christmas to you!

Morning Routine in Third Grade

In Third Grade the morning routine is one of the most important parts of the day.  It sets the tone for the day and is one of the most valuable 'chunks' of time.   I've found that students are never more 'alert' than in those first 45 minutes.  While every school, grade, and district may have their own required morning activities, these are the routines and procedures that I have found to be the most effective.

Third Grade Morning Routine:  Don't Over Plan

I can remember my first year of teaching Third Grade.  I tried to do it all.  I had a morning routine that was 5-6 items long: grammar, cursive writing, close reading, math facts, spelling, vocabulary... we did it all!  But we did not do it well.  I could not figure out why almost every student was doing average (at best) on each section of the morning routine.  No one was "mastering" anything, and I felt like I was constantly trying to re-teach concepts.  Not to mention the piles and piles of marking!

I found that to make the most of our mornings I had to seriously cut down on the number of things that we were trying to accomplish.  Instead of trying to do it all, I picked which pieces were the most important.

So I cut it down.  By more than half.  And it totally worked.  Instead of floundering in piles of work, my students began totally ROCKING the few assignments they were given.

I suggest choosing no more than 2 or 3 individual assignments each morning.  (Some of my 'fast finisher' students work on a bonus project when they are done, but for the majority of the class this is the perfect amount of work.)   Each morning my students walk in and independently begin:  spelling practice, a quick morning grammar, and cursive writing.  And I love the look on their faces when they begin to feel successful at each!

Third Grade Morning Routine:  Teach It

It's so important to make sure to explicitly teach each part of your morning routine.  Don't assume that students will "just know" how you want them to complete their grammar and vocabulary practice:  teach them to do it, and do it painfully slowly.  

In my class, we spend the first month doing our "morning routine" as a whole class, and I model each part of our morning routine multiple times.

Using my document camera I will walk students through how to practice their spelling (including where it goes when they are done!),  how I would like their grammar to be completed, and the proper formation of each day's cursive letter.

As students are ready I will gradually move from instruction to guided practice.  Here, I will write the instructions on the board and gently remind off-task students what I am expecting.

Third Grade Morning Routine:  Keep it Consistent

In my third grade classroom, consistency is key.  I make sure that every morning has almost the same routine so that students always know what to expect when they walk in the room.  I try not to change up our morning routine without a ton of notice, and I find that students respond very positively to the consistency.

When students come in each morning I write their "Morning Work" on the whiteboard along with a short cheerful message.  As each student files in they quickly glance at the board to read the message and see which supplies they will need.

One of the things I developed for my class last year was a Grammar Practice Book that specifically covered the grammar and writing skills that I felt were the most vital to third grade.  Take a peek here and see if it might be helpful for your class.

Do you have any specific things you love in your morning routine?  Anything that always works?  What about any utter disasters?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Third Grade Morning Routine tips
End of the Year Activities

It's that time of the year again!  The birds are singing, the sun is out, and the school year is winding down.  I've found myself becoming a little bit tear-ier than usual when I think about saying goodbye to this years' batch of kids.  At times, they were a really tough group, but I've loved the adventures we have been able to have together.

There are so many ways that you can celebrate the end of the year in an elementary classroom.  I thought I'd share a few of my favourite ways to mark the end of a successful year together.

1. Now and Then Bulletin Board

On the first day of school, I always take a picture of my kiddos holding a sign that marks their first day in a new grade.  For me, it's important that this happens on the actual first day of school.  (Not the first week, etc.)  I love the nervous/shy/apprehensive smiles I get when I take their photos on Day 1.  Then, towards the end of the year (usually 2-3 weeks from the end), we take another photo.  This time I ask them to scream out "I am done grade three!"  I love seeing the difference between their beginning and end of the year photos.  They grow so much in third grade.  

2. Birthday Party for Everyone

The theme for our year end class party this year is "Birthday Party for Everyone".

I have to admit, I am not the best at celebrating birthdays in class.  I'm great at holidays, book studies, literary events, science projects... but birthdays...notsomuch.  This year, we are having an in-class birthday party for all of my students on a day that is no one's birthday.  Each student is in charge of something: planning games, making invitations, setting up colouring stations, organizing food... even washing the dishes afterward!   

A fun way to celebrate with their friends, and make sure each child feels valued during the school year. 

3. Slideshow (Class Movie)

I love ending the year off with a class movie.  I am an iPhone and camera addict (Nikon girl!)  so I am constantly snapping pics and quick movies of my kiddos. This is my chance to snip them all together into a short (ok... 10 minutes... not that short) movie to watch.  

When I first started teaching I always waited until the last day of school to show them the movie.  Last year I stopped doing that.  Why?  Because they love the movie.  They love it so much that they could watch it every day for a week.  So now I usually show it to them 2-3 days before the end of the year. It gives them a chance to see it a few times before they have to say "goodbye" to each other for the summer.  Then, if they want to talk about it, process it, or suddenly *remember* someone that they need to play with on the playground... they can! 

4. Beach Field Trip

I know that this one isn't possible for everyone.  I feel so fortunate to live in British Columbia, and only 30-45 minutes away from more than a dozen world class beaches.

Each June my grade three class heads to the beach with our grade one buddies, their siblings, and all of our families.  We celebrate the end of a successful year family-style with a beach BBQ, sandcastle building contest, and little toes in the sand!

5. 'About My Year' Project

End of Year Flipbooks by Poet Prints Teaching (K-5)


I always try to finish out the year with a project that helps students to reflect on their time in Third Grade.  It's a great way to help students to remember all of the fun you had, and think back on how much they have learned and grown!  Last year we wrote letters to future Third Grade students.  This year, I created a flipbook template that let us think about the best parts of the year! 

6. Award Ceremony

In the last week of school I always hold my annual 'Grade Three Award Ceremony'.  We set up the classroom like a mini-auditorium and each student is given an individualized award certificate.  I invite parents to come watch and try to make this a special part of the end of our year.  This is such a chance to honour the unique parts of each student in my classroom.  I love how students light up when they hear how they are being honoured.  Teachers Pay Teachers has many pre-made award certificates.  I use this pack from 'Teaching with a Mountain View' because it has so many different options and is a great time-saver.  (I do still have to come up with a few awards on my own - but she has an editable template as well).  

7. Maintain Routines

This one may sound odd... but stay with me.  Sometimes the end of the year in an elementary classroom can be so much fun that it gets a little chaotic.  Field trips, parties, school-wide events, parent visits and evening concerts can mean that their last few weeks in a certain grade look almost nothing like the rest of the year!

Last year, I remember one of my bright-eyed little third graders coming up to me and asking "Mrs. P, will I ever get to do read-to-self with you ever again?"  She was heartbroken at the thought that regular grade three was over.  

In the hustle and bustle of the "fun" of the end of the year, I've learned that sometimes the best gift you can give to your students is the gift of keeping things as normal as possible.  They like it.  They like you, their teacher.  They will miss so many parts of the grade they are in, so why not let them hold on for just a few more days? 

How do you and your class celebrate the end of a year of learning?  Any traditions you have carried forward from year to year?  Anything you are hoping to try out next year?

12 More Cute Things Students Have Said

From the mouths of babes...

This is the second in my series about the funny, adorable things that students say (usually without intending to get a laugh!).  If you haven't, make sure to check out PART ONE.  

Up here in BC we are almost at the finish line for the school year.  It is so close I can feel it!  In looking back on this year, there have been a lot of challenges, but there have also been so many funny moments.  Teaching little people has its own unique set of joys!

In no particular order, here are 12 more cute student sayings to get you through to the end of the year (or started on your summer break if you are so lucky!)

(10 + 2 bonus ones because I just couldn't leave any out!) 

#1 - Science > Donuts

My students were conducting the dye tied experiment and one of my first graders exclaimed, "This is awesome!  It's even better than the chocolate donut I ate on the way down here!" -  Stem to Steam Trio

#2 - Mid-Lesson Pedicure

I was in the middle of a lesson at the carpet and stopped to find one student trimming his toe nails with a pair of scissors.  NOPE! - Rianna, 3rd grade teacher

#3 - Kindergarten Swear Words

I had a kindergartener walk into my room on the day we were learning the short "e" sound and point to the word "elf" on the board.

"Does that say elf?"

"Yes! Good reading!"

"That's a bad word."

"No it's not, who told you that?"

"My mama tells us we're not allowed to say the elf-word."

The Cozy Learning Cottage

#4 - The Facts of Life

Student:  You're having a baby?

Me:  Yes, I am!

Student:  So, you're adopting a baby?

Me:  No, the baby is in my tummy. (pointing to my 7 month pregnant baby belly)

Student:  (look of horror on his face)  You adopted the baby and ate it?!

Wife, Teacher, Mommy

#5 - The Moon Walk

While learning about the moon in First Grade, I mentioned to the students that Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.  One student says, "Wait! No!  That's not Right!!  Michael Jackson was the first person to do the moon walk!"

Then, straight face and all, he proceeds to show the whole class the moon walk, and say that this is how Michael Jackson walked on the moon.  

The Pawsitive Teacher

#6 - Kindergarten Pronunciation

I have a student who has a part in our school assembly.  He is supposed to say, "Be kind and compassionate to others," but he keeps saying, "Be kind and passionate to others."  I'm never sure whether to correct him or not! 

- Lara, kindergarten teacher

#7 - Math Fail

"Am I supposed to subtract or take away?"

(OK, this may be more depressing than cute - especially in April!)

Teacher Down the Hall

#8 - This is Not Part of a Flower

(It was close enough to the word "stamen" that I didn't have the heart to mark it wrong!)

Poet Prints

#9 - Important American History

When discussing a Social Studies unit with a 5th grader, I asked, "What's the name of that document that contains all those laws and amendments?"

My student takes a few minutes to think, before her eyes light up, and she screams... "The CONSTIPATION!!" 


#10 - Latin Roots

When asked to find a word that uses the Latin root "quint, I had a student write: "Quintuplets are five twins born from a mothers womb".  

Another student, referring to the root psych, wrote: "Robin was Batman's psychic."  

So close, yet so far!  

-Mentoring in the Middle

#11 - Where Does Our Food Come From...

I overheard two of my kindergarten students talking: "So, if hamburgers come from cows, does that mean cheese is from cat pee?" 

Home Run Teaching

#12 - Vowel Movement

From a 7th grader:  We were talking about vowels, and how they impact the pronunciation and spelling of words.

 This young man became perplexed and thoughtful, and then said: "Well, I don't understand where a vowel movement fits in."  He was confusing vowels with bowels.

There was NO WAY I couldn't crack a smile.    

It's a Teacher Thing

Finally: When I Grow Up...

Jim Hansen

*Entries may have been edited for length and clarity

See you again for the next instalment.  

In the meantime, don't forget to send in your cute student stories! 

poetprintsTPT (at) gmail (dot) com 

- Rachel

12 Funny Things Students have said