Making Habits Happen in the Classroom

I'm lucky to be at a school where they really support the social and emotional learning just as much as the academic learning that goes on in our classrooms. We have a lot of things on our plate as educators- standards, assessments, high stakes testing, pacing,......  But as many have said, the mental and emotional learning IS the plate. We can not pile on these other things if we are not taking care of our students social and emotional needs. That would be like bringing a paper plate that has gone through the dishwasher to a picnic with greasy chicken and baked beans on the menu... it'll just make a mess and lunch would end up in our laps.


At our school, we have a mixture of behavior/emotional supports to help our students learn how to be respectful, build social competence with their peers and adults, and express their feelings and emotions in healthy ways. We follow the common Responsive Classroom practices, have PBIS school wide incentives, use the Olweus Anti-Bullying program, and are a Welcoming School (check out their website if you are unaware of what that means). Even with all of these awesome supports in place, sometimes I still need a little extra something.

I wanted to give my students something new, something they haven't heard from kindergarten to give them purpose again. They've been hearing, "Show your CARES," constantly (which is an acronym from RC). I wanted to give them new language and a new focus to help them get to the next level.

Enter the Leader in Me website.

I would love to be in a school where this was actually adopted and used throughout, however, I'm starting small by using their website to help me make some small changes. I also found some great resources from others through Pinterest to help guide me with pictures books to use in my classroom to introduce some of the habits.

For most of these, we read a book or two and discussed what that habit really meant. We also discuss the "I-statements" for each one to help students understand what that might look like in our classroom. Before you know it, I have students who are reciting the "mantras" throughout the day.

Heck. I even had students make up their own call and response using the habits. Are you familiar with the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons? Well students changed the lyrics to "Be Proactive" instead of Radioactive. Now, when I want their attention, I sing the, "Whoooa Whoooa"s and they say back, "Be proactive, be proactive." I kid you not- they came up with that all on their own. What I'm getting at is that these simple posters and I-statements began to give my students the language on what it meant to work towards being a leader.



And although those books and statements were awesome to introduce the habits to my students, I found that integrating it into our learning and daily work has had the biggest effect.


We do a lot of math talk during our math lessons. I really wanted to have all students share ideas and listen to ideas before solving a problem and to work together. This is a hard skills for kids across the spectrum- I've got my quiet souls who are very comfortable with simply sitting and listening, I've got my quiet souls who want to talk, but struggle with asserting themselves, and I've got my loud voices who always talk first and love to share.

So after I gave them a problem to work on during math in their daily groups (which I change often to make sure everyone works with everyone), I focused in on what I heard and what I saw in terms to the two habits we were focusing on during that time. After the problem was done and discussed, I took a survey to ask how many students listened to someone else's idea, how many students shared an idea, and how many students thought that everyone in the group balanced the two. We saw throughout the math lesson that as it went on, more people were sharing and feeling like the talking space was being shared.

One major success was with one student who flat out told me he did not like working with groups because he likes to "go fast." However, this student also sometimes makes sloppy mistakes. I coached him on how he could get others involved by questioning. He latched onto that and came up with some stellar questions to get other involved and to help others explain their thinking. I was really quite amazed at the sophistication he brought to his group and the smile that was on his face while he assumed the "teacher" role, as we talked that when I teach them, I often ask questions more than just telling answers... that's what teachers do!

I've been really impressed with the level of our group work and how students are really thinking about these habits throughout our learning time. I'm seeing strong voices speak up in a way to encourage others to share. I'm seeing quiet voices begin to see value in their comments and practicing the language and vocabulary in the lesson which is so essential to their learning. And even better, I'm doing less redirecting and a lot more reinforcing during group work time while my students are redirecting themselves and staying on task.

What do you use to help students build the necessary social skills?


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Bump Morphology: Practicing Prefixes and Suffixes

I love finding multiple purposes for an object. I especially love office supply objects. So whenever I can find a useful way to include office supplies into our learning, I get a bit giddy in the gills and slap my head saying, "Why didn't I do this earlier??"

I've been focusing a lot on academic language and vocabulary in my classroom this year. Specifically, I've incorporated a bit more of morphology into our day in some way. To reinforce some of our learning, I created some centers (based off of needs I saw pop up in my room in particular). Today, I'm sharing about....

Bump Morphology

I've been living under a rock. I just learned about this game. And now I want to create millions and millions of Bump games!

We learned a new prefix and suffix each week as a part of our weekly spelling. I noticed that students needed more time to work with the meaning of these prefixes and to stretch their vocabulary beyond the words we used during our introduction of these affixes. So I made a Bump to reinforce the 6 prefixes and 6 suffixes that we'd been practicing.


What office supplies did I use to make this gem? 

  • 2 page protectors
  • paper clip
  • pencil
  • bronze brads
The paper clip and pencils make the spinners possible. I know many of you already use that (as I have too in the past). The page protectors are connected with the bronze brads and keeps the spinner and game board connected. However, when we you are done and need to store it, they fold right up for easy storage in a file folder or drawer!

You'll also need other little "markers" for the game and the game board itself. You could find your own office supplies for the markers such as erasers, but since I am a teacher, I had access to other things such as unifix cubes.

Here's how to play for those of you who are also new to this genius game (with our game boards in mind):

  1. Player spins the spinner (they can choose which one)
  2. Whatever it lands on, they have to find a box on the game board that matches
  3. If they can define what the word means by using their knowledge of the prefix or suffix, they place their colored cube on that square
  4. Next player repeats.

Here's where it gets interesting

  1. If the other player spins and lands on the same prefix or suffix that you have a piece on... and they want it... they can BUMP your cube off and claim it as their own! There's only one way to protect your piece and its placement...
  2. Lock it! In order to lock your piece in a certain box, you'll need to land on the same prefix or suffix and do 1 of two things:
    1. Name the part of speech that prefix/suffix creates (ex: -tion turns a verb into a noun)
    2. Use the prefix/suffix + base word in a 7 power sentence correctly
      1. If you do one of these things, you place another of your makers (unifix cubes) on top of your other piece. It is now locked and protected. Whew!
  3. We have different ways you can win as well:
    1. Be the first player to get 5 locked pieces on the board
    2. Be the first player to get 4 pieces in a row (locked or unlocked)

The game boards are also differentiated...

  • One game board is filled with words already that have the prefixes or suffixes from the spinner. This is for students who need to be exposed first to other words that have these prefixes and suffixes.
  • One game board has a few words already given sprinkled among just prefixes and suffixes. This is for students who should be able to generate some of their own words with the given prefixes or suffixes.
  • One game board has just prefixes and suffixes... no words given at all! This is for students who already have a strong vocabulary with these prefixes and suffixes and makes them think on their feet!
This BUMP game reviews the prefixes and suffixes we have learned. I plan on making more of them as we learn more. For now, you can find this first set in my TpT store by clicking on the image below. This version is not editable- sorry! But since I'll be making more, additional affixes will be added later. Since my students already were exposed to these, they used their work and practice in our classroom to help them. If your students haven't learned these yet, you'll need to teach into the prefixes/suffixes first before they play the game. 

The prefixes included in this set are: un, in, re, pre, dis, im
The suffixes included in this set are: ful, less, y, ly, er (as in the person i.e. teacher), ist




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Conference Freebie!

Hey, hey, hey! I'm finding some time during the week to blog! And it's thanks to Angie and Ashley and their monthly link-up:


We had conferences super early this year. I'm talking like 20 days into the school year. Because it was so early on, I really wanted our time to be a discussion where I share information with families, but that I also get information from families about my students.

And if I'm totally honest, I was still trying to learn about where my students were academically! We spend so much time at the beginning of the year around social and work habits, which is why I choose to focus on that a lot at conference time, because that is what we talk and work so much on during the first few weeks of school. So of course I have some academic things to share with families, but I also spend a good portion on these habits. This year, I created my own habits check. Here's how it worked:

I had students pick a color. They then went through and read each statement. They put an "X" under the picture that best matched what they thought. I went afterwards with a different color and put what I thought.
This was a great talking piece and was great for me to see how students thought they were doing. It also goes along with our growth mindset work we've been doing.

I did an academic check on the back as well.


I checked 1 box on the top for each major category that showed student strengths. On the bottom, I checked 1 box to show how students could continue to grow. I then had additional student work to support these, plus some data from school wide tests. This all was plenty to discuss over our 20 minutes together.

I'll be doing this again for spring conferences and have made some "check-ins" similar to send home in-between conferences to keep families informed. They all follow the same structure so that families can easily following it.

Want these forms for your own classroom? Click on the image below to download your own copy.


**There was a typo on the original. Oops. #mistakeshappen Grab the updated on by clicking on the image above. :)

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Foundation of our Reading Time: Unit 1

It has been a year for the record books so far. Lots of unexpected changes and challenges, but I do have to say my group of kiddos this year will continue to motivate me to become the best teacher I can be. They are great- and they have a lot to teach me. I just wish I had more hours in the day! But that's nothing new for a teacher.


It seems like each year, I become more passionate about making sure we ease into our content areas by getting students excited! This year was no exception. I look back at the beginning of our reading lives this year, and I've already seen huge changes! Students are finding books that they want to read and are staying focused, they are reflecting on the kind of reader they are, and they are trying our new learning in their independent work. What more can I ask for!? Here's a photo dump of our first unit.




We make a lot of charts. Like a lot. I'll let them do the talking as they are pretty self explanatory (as any good anchor chart should be). Often, I plan them out ahead of time, but then add to them with the students.

(P.s. I'm loving my boards in the back of my room. I want more!)

(I talked more about the chart on the left here. I was inspired and tweaked the chart on the right here)

The arrows which are large post-its (love!!) were the text evidence.


I led strategy groups from Serravallo's awesome book a lot during this first unit. When I met with a group and we discussed a strategy, I made a little reference chart and put it on the back board. I could easily pull them off and set them on certain students' desk as reminders and references.


Students did the work here. They came up with some awesome ideas! My new teammate gave me the idea for this chart!


(You can tell the parts that I wrote with the students... oops!)

4th year and 4th time I'm trying to make the reading notebook work. And golly I think I've found it!

I used the layout of my Classroom Journals to make tabs for my students writing and reading notebooks.



Whenever we read a book together where we jot in our notebooks, we write it down on the tab. We also add a star rating when we are done.

Here are a few things we've jotted in our read aloud section:




Students just started writing in the independent section this past week in their own books. They are doing the character maps for their own characters. Next we, we start our units on characters in a series, so I'm excited to see improvement in the types of things they record down after we do some lessons. This is great formative assessment for me to see what and how they jot ideas down before our learning begins. 

In the very back of the notebook, we started to glue in resources from me. We are going to work backward since I don't know how often we will use it. I'm not loving the gluing, but it makes the most sense right now, so we will continue!

 (for asking questions during our reading)

(for reading partners and accountable talk)

As part of my Masters work, I'm thinking of new ways to integrate academic language and vocabulary and make it accessible for my students. One way is through language charts. Each unit, we will redo this process and add words and phrases that we need to use during this unit. I have started one for science too (that's a whole new blog post haha).


I'll be honest- I haven't used this board as much as I would have liked to at this point. But I think now that the year is rolling, we'll add more to it. Here was our examples for how to write a fiction question for a character. I noticed students were not using character names and correct punctuation so we did a lesson and activity around this.


So that's a glimpse into our first unit of reading! This covered about 30 days (and of course there are some things that I didn't cover because I didn't snap any pictures, like our book buzz).  What did you do during reading in your first 30 days of the school year??


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Making Differentiated Spelling Lists Work

I'm slowly crawling out of my hole. This year has been a doozie so far. We've learned so much and have come so far already, but my blogging will still be sporadic for awhile.

One thing I've never be proud of has been my spelling practices and routines. And much of it is due to our limited time and high demand. Those two things don't go together. But with some creativity and collaboration from others, I think this is the year where we will see a lot of improvement with our spelling. Here's how I got it rolling this year in 5 steps!

But first... our reality.

We literally have 10 minutes each day to devote to spelling. And that includes a major transition where students are trickling back in from their intervention groups around the building. So that means, I can't count on having all 10 minutes for instruction because they aren't all back at the same time. We (my co-teacher and I) agreed to do some shifting in another part of our day to give us time to introduce and teach new lists. I'll explain more of this throughout.

At the beginning of the year, I gave 2 assessments. One was the Words Their Way spelling inventory. This is our adopted curriculum. However, I noticed after the first word (bed) that there were some students who were not ready for sorts. So I gave another assessment that I created. I found a list of commonly misspelled sight words for 3rd grade and picked 31 of them. Why 31? I don't know, because I couldn't decide on just 30. So we go with 31. I had students take this sight word assessment too. And the results were very telling. Only 3 students scored 85% or higher on this assessment. More telling, over half of my class could spell less than 60% of the words. So I decided to start the year off with two lists: one sight word spelling list and one sorting word list. Students were placed in a group based on these two assessments.

So tip one: START SMALL! I could easily have 6 groups to meet students at their exact needs, but that would be a managing nightmare, especially at the beginning of the year. We are starting with just 2 different word lists and after we get into routines more, I will start to introduce another list to further my differentiation. This was the step that often intimidated me. But doing two lists is better than one in terms of differentiation, so we will celebrate that and continue on.



Next, I made sight word lists. 13 of them to be exact. Each with 15 words. We started on list 1. I also used the WTW books to find a sort to start with my other group who have sight words pretty well mastered. Both groups will also practice 1 prefix and 1 suffix each week.


Here's how it actually is rolled out then. On Mondays we have library time at our school library, so our writing instruction time gets cut in half. We decided to use the 2nd half of our writing time on Mondays for our instruction on the spelling lists. My co-teacher takes one group and I take the other. We review the list: Sight word list discusses multiple meaning words on their lists (their vs. they're) and practice reading each word. Sort word lists discusses sorting rule and patterns. Both groups also learn and record their prefix and suffix for that week. We write the prefixes in green and suffixes in red. We make a map to record examples. This takes 20 minutes per group. However, when there is two teachers, we each take one group.


Tuesday-Thursday are spent on individual practice during that 10 minute chunk. Since students trickle in, they are allowed to get started as soon as they get back. They take out their word work folders that contain their list and spelling contract that changes weekly and their notebook where they practice each week.


The contracts are done each week. I set a goal point system. They choose activities to practice their words. Most of the practice can be completed in their notebook or on paper that I've laminated to reuse or use in Smart Pals so I don't need to make copies of that each week too. I have a contract for sight words and the sorts so that it pertains to the type of work each group needs to do.


On Fridays, we test! It was tricky our first go, but it will only get smoother. I just alternate lists when reading aloud. Each group has 15 words (I pick 15 out of the 25ish from the sort; they don't know which ones I'm going to pick) Eventually, I will have the sort group do partner tests, where they quiz each other. After the tests, I grade them and hand them back. Then, they need to write down any words they spelt incorrectly on their index card (with a sentence). Now, each time they are writing during writer's workshop, they grab their card and use it as reference so they can practice writing the words correctly. Each week, they will continue to add to it so I also see which students continue to struggle with their sight words or sorts practice.

Then we begin again! I've even planned out alternative schedules for if we don't have school on a Friday or Monday to fill our time with other meaningful practice. Just having that laid out gives me piece of mind.

How do you manage spelling in your room? Do you follow a program or create your own? How much time do you dedicate to it? I'd love to hear!

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Anecdotal Note Taking

I blogged! Many- I stink at September blogging. But, you'll have to visit iTeach Third to get one of my quick assessment tool tips! Here's a little sneak peak below. When you are ready to read the whole thing, click the picture!


Why you should use anecdotal notes:
  • They help me track things in a variety of subjects including behaviors
  • They help me be responsive to my students' needs
  • They help me to notice patterns for a particular student or groups of students
  • They provide explicit examples for discussions with my team, service members, and families
  • They help teachers stay on top of each student and not just those who are struggling for the feedback that all students (and families) crave.
See my ideas over at the collaborative blog!


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Our Classroom Space 2015 2016

I spend a lot of time at school. Each year, I cut back a little bit more and hopefully this year is no exception. Still, I spend 9+ hours here 5 days straight so I want it to feel cozy and comfortable and orderly.

Additionally, I like to be creative and make my own things. So this summer I had some fun! And I finished it all in time to now switch my focus to decorating my first house with my husband! So my classroom should be staying like this for a while now, which I'm ok with because I love this space.

I'm linking up with amazing Ashley and Angie for their:


I've already shared a few snippets that you can see here. Here's a peek around!


My door and what you see when you walk in! I'm finishing up the door today before our Open House tomorrow. I'm waiting until as late as possible (without feeling rushed) just in case there are any changes to my roster. 


Next to my door is my "control center." Student attendance and lunch is done here, jobs are posted, and our graffiti wall. I'll be adding our morning and end of the day routines here too. My quotes from Miss Maple's Seeds are posted above this board (you can get them here to download). 


If you've been around this blog for awhile, you'll know of my hate-hate relationship with this accordion folding wall. I do get to easily talk to my teammate though as we leave a little crack in between the rooms. However, I think I figured out how to make it functional this year! I made these boards from the Dollar Tree, some left over borders, and my computer and clothespins. They'll hang our many charts.


Always a favorite part of my room- the library! No more books are allowed... I have no room!!!

This is the only bulletin board with something on it- otherwise they are empty. I like to keep them that way when we begin and build them with the students.


This is a new space this year that I'm trying. We'll see how it goes. I love anything that is a magnetic surface so I'm excited for the possibilities (but I'm not sure completely what they are).


This is my corner. I have my computer cart and then I have tables where I pull small groups.


Right next to my corner are things I use DAILY for morning meeting and instruction. You can get the response protocols here.


More blank boards ready for our learning! And homework pockets!


The last wall in my room is full of cupboards and counters. Again, it's a space that I always try to improve but am rarely successful. Maybe this year! Our math manipulatives are in those drawers. 



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