Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Reading List for Teachers {2017}

It's summer.  The sun is shining, the temps are rising, the days are longer, and there is more time to sit back and relax.  One of my favorite ways to relax during summer is to sit down and read a good book.  A good book and an ice cold drink makes for a day well spent. Plus, it's cheap entertainment!

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I'm joining my sweet friend, Molly, from Lucky to be in First to share my 2017 summer reading list.  Read on for some great recommendations as well as a list of books I look forward to reading!

My recommendations are first up.  These are books that I'm pretty sure you'll love as much as I did. Warning: I don't read heavy stuff.  I like to keep it light and fun. Anyhoo, I truly loved each of these books and I'm hoping you do too!

I love, love, love this series.  I read each of these books in no time flat.  I just couldn't put them down.  Each book focuses on a different character, but all the characters play a part in each book. There are three books and they do need to be read in order, starting with Party Girl.
  • Party Girl: Sweet Landon moves to L.A. to pursue her dream of working in event planning. She soon learns that her dream job is anything less than dreamy, but ultimately comes out on top because she was willing to take a chance on herself.
  • Sweet Girl: This is book two in the "Girl's" series.  This book is all about Max, a character from Party Girl.  Max pursues her dream of becoming a pastry chef but meets lots of obstacles along the way.  Don't worry, there's another happy ending in it for you. :)
  • Smart Girl: This is the third book in the series.  This story is about Miko, one more character from Party Girl.  She's quirky and smart and her story will make you laugh out loud more than once.
Little Beach Street Bakery: I love books about women finding/bettering themselves.  I also love books that have anything to do with baked goods. This book has both! You'll love reading the story of Polly finding her place in this world, and you might even drool a bit over the recipes at the back of the book.  :)
Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery: This book continues the story of Polly, from Little Beach Street Bakery. Another great read.
Pattern Play #2: Ok, so this is a coloring book, not a novel.  Buuuuuut, it too is a relaxing way to pass the time.  The designs in this book are fun and whimsical, and printed on high quality paper.  If you like to color, check it out!
In Defense of Read Aloud: If you are looking to read something teaching related, I really enjoyed this book.  It was a great reminder as to why read aloud is important and should be a part of our daily repertoire in the classroom.  There are also lots of great read aloud suggestions and strategies for making your read alouds meaningful.

Having read the books above, it's time to get my hands on some new reading material!  Most of these books are currently sitting on my nightstand just waiting for me to crack them open.  And, I can't wait to get started!

If I Could Turn Back Time: The premise of this book reminds me of the movie 13 Going on 30, only on a deeper level (maybe...I hope...or just sounds like a fun read).  We shall see!

Once Upon a Wine: I'll read anything by Beth Kendrick, so I had to add this one to my collection.

The Hating Game: The title of this book seems pretty harsh, but it sounds like a cute romantic comedy of sorts.  You know the formula, guy and girl think they hate each other so they do unkind things to each other, but then they realize that maybe they don't hate each other after all.

All Fall Down: This one came recommended by a friend.  She has great taste, so I'm ordered my own copy.  It has a more serious story line, but Jennifer Weiner is a good storyteller, and I always enjoy her books.

Who's Doing the Work?:  Just reading the cover of this book makes me want to read it.  I want a classroom of independent readers, am I doing all that I can to encourage this?  Hmmmm....definitely want to read this book.

Missed last year's recommendations?  Click HERE to visit that post. :)

You can check out more great summer reading recommendations by vising Lucky to be in First HERE.

Do you have a great summer reading recommendation of your own?  Leave the title in a comment below and I'll be sure to check it out!


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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Using a Classroom Handbook to Communicate Important Policies and Procedures

Do you want to know my number one tip for effectively sharing important classroom policies and  information with students' families?  A classroom handbook.  Just a few pages of key information could save you from floods of inquires on different matters throughout the year.  Now, doesn't that sound nice?

At the beginning of every school year, I use a variety of forms to get information from my students' parents. 

But let's be honest, they usually have lots of questions of their own about matters like homework, absences, birthdays, and so forth.  So, I've learned to simply compile that information into a small (easy to read) handbook that they can refer to throughout the year.  This little gem has truly reduced the number of inquiries I get regarding my classroom policies. 

What's Included
I recently shared my handbook on Instagram and received several questions about what I include in the booklet, as well as how I am able to prep it now, with school being 3 months away.  So, I thought I'd share a little bit about my handbook on the blog!

A classroom handbook can include anything you want/need it to include, that's the beauty of this tool!  My handbook includes the following information:
  • Letter to Parents
  • Progress Reports
  • Communication (best way to contact me)
  • Absences
  • Homework
  • Class Rules
  • Behavior Plan
  • Birthdays
  • a copy of our district Wellness and Nutrition Regulation

Here's a look at a few of the pages that I include in my handbook.  I always start it off with a note to the parents.  This letter welcomes families to second grade and gives them a brief overview of what to expect in second grade.

Homework is required in my district, and parents always like to know the expectations associated with this requirement.  Sharing the information up front saves me lots of time in the long run because I usually get very few questions about my expectations and policies once I start sending it home the second week.

I also like to address absences and how they relate to making up missed work/homework. I also include a form they can use when their child is absent. You an sneak a peek at this note by scrolling up to the image of the forms I send home.  It's the blue one.

I like to give families a little bit of information regarding progress reports, as well as the best way to contact me.  I'm terrible with the phone and make every effort to encourage families to either email or send in a note to relay information.

When parents know the classroom rules and corresponding behavior plan, they know exactly how to support their kids in maintaining successful learner behaviors in the classroom.  That's why I always make sure to share this information with them.  It helps them understand how I manage my classroom and they are better able to encourage their kids to work toward meeting these expectations.

Here's one last peek inside.  Birthdays are a big deal, but school is not the place for parties and there are rules about passing out party invitations.  By including this information in my handbook, I usually do not need to address the matter throughout the year (27 times).

I've found that if I stick to the basics, the handbook is more effective.  If it was jam packed with too much information it's both overwhelming and less likely to be read.  And, if it is, the information isn't going to be retained.

Since the information I include is fairly standard and changes very little from year to year, I am able to reuse the content from year to year (with the occasional tweak here and there). A little work up front pays off in the long run.  ;)

When to Send it Home
I usually send my handbook home within the first few days of school. Before sending it home, I like to gauge how much paperwork is being sent from the school/district before adding my own content to the mix.  I don't want it getting lost among the multitude of notes the school and district ask me to pass along.  I'm sure you can relate.  ;)

Encouraging Parents to Read the Handbook
I know we all struggle with sending home notes that are often times not read.  Or, at least that's how it feels.  Parents are busy people. They may not intentionally ignore our notes, but it does happen.  To encourage my students' parents to read through and keep this booklet on hand, I do the following:
  • Make a big deal about it when I pass it out to the students.  And, by that I mean that I explain how it includes important information that moms and dads often wonder/ask about.  I remind them that it's important for their parents to know about our classroom. Then, we take a look at what is included so they can share it with their parents like an expert.
  • Put a bright cover on it. This way, it stands out from all the other paperwork in their child's folder/backpack.
  • Refer to it in the first few newsletters that I send home.  This reminds the parents that the packet includes important information that they should be aware of at all times (and if they haven't read it yet, they should do so now).
  • Go over the content at Back to School Night.  I tell the parents that my presentation will be based on the booklet.  This encourages them to read through it (for the first, second, or third time) so they can decide if they want/need to come to Back to School Night. Sometimes it's hard for parents to attend this night due to child care issues, so this is often helpful for parents that fall into that category.
  • One more suggestion: I don't do this, but if you really want to make sure parents read your handbook, you could include a note that they sign and return stating that they've read over the content.  
Create a Handbook of Your Own
Love the idea of a class handbook but overwhelmed at the thought of creating one from scratch?  Fear not!  You can find this document, as well as a plethora of other useful back to school forms in my Back to School Forms pack on TPT.

My forms pack includes a ready to print PDF version as well as an editable Power Point. So, if the ready to print handbook doesn't exactly meet your needs, you can use the editable version to tailor the text to accurately reflect your policies and procedures.

Click the image below to check it out.  :)


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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Learning with Peeps {Poetry and a STEM Challenge}

Peeps.  Love them or leave them?  I say love them!  They are cheap and you can have so much fun with them in the classroom. 

We recently used Peeps to have a little STEM fun and to write some poems. Keep reading for the specifics, and be sure to stock up on some Peeps so you can have a little Peep themed fun of your own. :)

This Fun Friday activity was a huge hit with my students! They were given a few materials and were challenged with building the tallest tower they could.   I paired them up, gave them their supplies, and a set forth a few ground rules. 

The supplies: 
  • 12 Peeps (we used the bunnies)
  • 2 plastic straws
  • 6 wooden toothpicks
The rules: 
  • They could cut or modify the straw, if desired.
  • They could NOT cut or modify the toothpicks or Peeps.
  • They would have 10 minutes to build their tower.
  • Their tower had to stand on its own.
The challenge was tackled without hesitation.  The towers were all different, and some weren't very tower-like at all, but the engagement, problem solving, and team work that went on during those 10 minutes were amazing. 

When the challenge was over, I walked from tower to tower and measured each one (that was standing) with a yardstick.  The tallest tower stood a whopping 17 inches high!

I pretty much do this writing activity with my students every year.  After eating a Peep, we brainstormed adjectives and used them to write an adjective poem, build a poem style.

You can read about the process in detail HERE.

And, you can grab the freebie HERE.  :)

So, what are you waiting for?  Go stock up on those Peeps before they are gone!


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