Capitals and end marks are always important to review at the beginning of the school year. These task cards provide practice on both and can be used for Around the Room, independent practice, Scoot activity, or more!
Create a School is a fun project for students to work on to learn about rules and why they are important. Students are creating their own school where they are the teachers, get to design their own classroom, come up with rules, and more.
I’m so excited to share with you all one of my student’s favorite back to school activities. Each year we always spend the first few weeks of school talking about rules and expectations. Well a few years ago I decided to turn this in to more of a PBL and make it more engaging. No one wants to hear the teacher go on and on about rules and their importance. Kids tune that out and just hear blah, blah, blah. So Create a School was born – a fun and engaging way to go over rules and understand why rules are important.
Create a School Project Introduction:
Going over rules is an important part of any classroom. And, it’s something that has to be done in every class at the beginning of the year. The first few standards we typically tackle in Social Studies had to do with community, rules, etc. So, instead of the same old boring here are the rules, here is why we follow them…Johnson Elementary was born.The kids are introduced to this project by finding out that they will be teachers at Johnson (or whatever the teacher’s last name is) Elementary. I am the principal – Principal Johnson and they quickly become Miss ____, Mr. ____, etc. The excitement that builds just from this announcement is amazing! Buy in happens instantly!
Last year I found this amazing book – If I Built a School that fits in perfectly for this project! This book written by Chris Van Dusen is about a boy named Jack who gets to design and create his own school. He uses his imagination and comes up with some pretty cool things – trampoline basketball courts and hover desks. This book is perfect to read to your class as your introducing the project. You can find that book on Amazon>>> HERE.
Next, we talk about the school we’re opening and what classes our school will have. The teachers (students) get to pick what class they are teaching. We’ve had math, kindergarten, roller blading, ballet, science, cooking, Legos, Minecraft, etc. I’m pretty flexible on what they can teach. I want them to have fun and pick something they like. Here’s the cover page of our PBL Packet. The Essential Question we focus on is – How do rules help people function in a community and school?
On the next page, “teachers” give more information on the class they teaching. They tell me what they picked and why. They also create a list of a few things they will be teaching in their class. Below you will see one of the Teacher Info pages for the digital version that can be used with Google Classroom™.
Class Set-Up and Map:
Before starting this we look at a few pictures/maps of classroom online. We talk about making sure you have things you need to teach and things your students will need to learn. “Teachers” start by brainstorming a list of things they will need to have in their classroom. Once they have finished brainstorming, they draw their classroom map on the next page.
Before the “teachers” write their rules for their classroom, we research class rules. We read Officer Buckle and Gloria, read an article from ReadWorks on rules, and look at multiple examples online from many different types of classrooms. We even brainstormed a ton of rules on our circle map below. We talked too about a good number of rules. We thought 40 would be too many for kids to remember and 1 rule was not enough. So, we decided to keep the rules between 4-10.
Group or Individual Project – School Expectations:
In addition to rules in the classroom, we talked about other places that needed rules and expectations. We decided to focus on the bathroom, hallway, playground, and lunch room. The students broke into groups of 4-5 and worked with their group on expectations for their area. They first brainstormed some ideas. Then, they came up with again 4-10 and explained why they picked them. The last piece was presenting. Each group presented their expectations to the class. They did awesome! Great first presentation to the class.
Essential Question Reflection/Response:
After completing the project, students then went back to the Essential Question and explained why rules are necessary in schools and communities.
I created the rubric below as a way to score this project. This is our first PBL so it includes less pieces than some of our later ones, but I wanted to be able to identify how they did on each area – especially the Essential Question. Most kiddos did great! They really understood why we had rules – safety, keep things fair, etc and really enjoyed this project. I’ve also recently created a digital rubric that can be used with Google Slides™. Great for distance learning!
Digital and Printable Resource
If this sounds like a project you would like to do your kiddos, I have the resources already put together for you! There are three options…
This option is great for having both a digital and printable version. With distance learning I know many people might need digital this year, but want print next year. You can find the BUNDLE >>> HERE.
The digital versions uses Google Slides™ and can be assigned using Google Classroom™. This is great for distance learning, virtual learning, or if you have one-to-one technology in the classroom. You can find the digital version >>> HERE.
I have a teacher hack/tip to share with you today. Before the school year begins, create a substitute teacher binder for your subs. This binder will be the subs one stop shop for all info needed. Once you create this binder you’ll just need to update it each year with new student info. This is a great way to be organized and ready for a sub at a moment’s notice!
Benefits of Having a Substitute Teacher Binder
You will be prepared for any time you need a sub. All of your basic and important information is in the binder.
With COVID, unfortunately there might be more of a need for subs so you’ll have this ready to go.
When you’re not feeling well the last thing you want to do is get ready for the substitute teacher. While you’ll still need to write your actual plans for the day, the rest of the information will be ready to go in your binder.
Items in Substitute Teacher Binder
At the beginning of the binder, I include a table of contents so the sub can quickly identify where to find different pieces of information.
Dismissal Plan (students have different plans each day so I leave a chart so the sub can identify how each student goes home at the end of the day)
Health and Allergy Info (While this is confidential information, a substitute teacher does need to know if students have allergies or major health issues. I always write – “Keep Confidential” at the top as a polite reminder.)
Behavior/Work Needs – It is helpful for a substitute teacher to know ahead of time some of the needs in your classroom. On this page, I share with the sub if certain students will need assistance completing work or reminders for specific behaviors (staying on-task, etc.).
School Phone Numbers – Make sure to highlight important phone numbers (administration, secretary, team members).
School Map – Make sure fire drill routes are easy to see on this.
School Emergency Plans – If your school has written out directions for lockdowns, fire drills, tornado drills, etc make sure your sub is aware in case their is a drill on the day you are gone.
School-Wide Behavior Expectations – If your school has a school-wide plan, place it in the binder so the substiutte teacher is aware of the expectations and can keep things consisten for the kids.
Daily Schedule – Although I include a detailed version of the specific schedule in my plans, it’s always nice to have your weekly schedule in the binder for the sub to reference.
Special’s Schedule – Make sure the sub has the schedule of what special classes you have when.
Classroom Behavior Plan/Expectations – Share your class rules or expectations with the substitute teacher. While all class rules are similar, make sure he or she knows the specifics for your class.
Info on Class Reward System – Share with the substitute teacher how you reward positive behavior. Currently I use brag tags so I let the sub know and leave out “Good for the Sub” brag tags for the sub to hand out at their discretion.
Individual Behavior Plans – If you have students on individual behavior plans make sure the substitute has that info so they can be aware and help keep things consistent.
The last tab is where I leave my specific lesson plans for the day or days I will be absent. These are specific to the current curriculum and by leaving them in the binder – everything is in one place and easy for the sub to find!
I then leave the substitute teacher binder along with whatever items the teacher will need for that specific day out on my desk. I also label games, worksheets, books with post-it notes explaining what subject they are for. The nice about thing about this substitute teacher binder is it’s always ready to go. Once I’ve updated it in August/September with my new class info – then I’m ready for a sub!
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important part of every school day. Now more than ever with distance learning and COVID, SEL will need to be a big focus when we go back into school in person and/or digitally. SEL is important for every day classroom interactions and beyond. These life skills that students can learn will help set them up to be successful in future life situations.
Importance of SEL
SEL is important for so many reasons, but below I’ve picked some of the top ones I see in the classroom.
Teaches life skills
Promotes positive self-esteem
Helps kids express feelings and needs
Helps students understand others
Gives students the opportunity to learn about self-control
As teachers it’s important that SEL is not just a passing thought, but something that we integrate into our classroom everyday. I’ve come up with 6 easy ways to incorporate SEL into your classroom.
Social Emotional Books
Books are always a great way to teach life skills. Students can identify with characters and things they are going through. Reading SEL stories can also open up an opportunity for great classroom discussions about friendship, self-control, emotions, etc. If you are looking for some SEL books, check out my list of 10 Must-Have SEL Books for the Classroom>>> HERE.
Building Classroom Community
Classroom community is another way to promote social emotional learning in your classroom. The first few weeks of school teachers work tirelessly to help the students get to know one another and to build up that classroom community. Your class is like a family and it takes time and effort to make that happen.
Getting to know you activities at the beginning of the year is one way to build community. One activity I love doing is having the kids interview each other. This is a great way for them to get to know a classmate they didn’t know before. If you are interested in an interview page already created and more get to know you activities, check out my Getting to Know You Back to School Writing Activities.
Team building activities are another great way to build classroom community. I know this year things will look different with COVID, but I love doing table team competitions. In the past, we’ve done who can build the tallest tower, who can make the largest paper chain, and who can balance the most dice on a popsicle stick. These competitions are silly and meant to be fun. They are also a great way for the kids to feel more comfortable.
I could talk about Morning Meeting all day long! If you know me, you know Morning Meeting is one of my favorite parts of the school day. While it incorporates academics, Morning Meeting is also a great chance to promote Social Emotional Learning skills. This is a great time to read SEL books, have discussions during share, and work on activities where students can get to know each other better. If you are interested in learning more about Morning Meeting, click HERE.
Kids do not come out of the womb knowing how to deal with social and emotional situations. They often learn through experiences. Through these experiences, they sometimes make a great choice when handling a situation, but they also sometimes don’t know what to do and might not make the best choice.
While reading SEL stories, we tend to discuss the scenarios of what has happened. This gives us a chance to talk about the situation and how the character handled it. Questions I often ask include: Did they make a good choice?, Could they have handled it differently?, What could they do next time? These questions and discussions expose kids to every day situations that they might face some day. They also provide them with background knowledge, which might help them know how to handle these situations.
I just created a brand new resource to help with these discussions. In this resource, you will find 24 different every day child scenarios that you can project on the board. As you read through the scenarios and questions, you and your class can discuss the situation and how to handle it. You can find this SEL Discussion Cards >>> HERE.
Helping Kids Process Situations
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, kids often do not know how to handle social and emotional sitituations when they happen. Part of our jobs as teachers is to help them. As situations arise in the classroom, I always try to take time to talk with the individuals involved and help them work through the situation. Now I know it’s not always possible to do it right there in the moment, but try to find some time that day to help the kid/s with how to handle what happened.
Calm Down Area
So a Calm Down Area is a safe space in your classroom for students to go and take a minute for themselves. It’s almost like the child is putting themselves in time out. However, it is not meant to be a punishment. It’s meant to be a space for the child to take a break, calm down, and reflect. Your calm down area can be called many things- safe space, Zen Zone, Reflection Pod, etc.
At the beginning of the year, make sure you introduce it to your class and explain what it is for. You can also model how to use it. I’ve seen calm down areas really help students who are working on self-control. It can honestly be helpful for anyone – we all need a break sometimes!
I hope you found these SEL ideas helpful! Please click on the links below for more information on what I posted above.
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is such an important skill to be focusing on in the classroom. SEL helps build students up, provides them lifeskills they need to learn, helps them deal with emotions, learn coping skills, learn to work with others, and more! Books are a great way to bring SEL into the classroom! Below you will see my 10 Must-Have Social Emotional Learning Books for the Classroom!
I absolutely love the What Should Do Danny series and the authors Adir and Ganit Levy. Their three books – What Should Danny Do?, What Should Danny Do? School Day, and What Should Darla Do? were favorites in my classroom this past year. Their books are set up like a choose your own adventure, but it’s all about your choices. Every day we have the power to choose – we can make a good choice or a bad choice. In their books, the characters Danny and Darla go through every day kid situations and come to problems where they then have to choose – are they going to make the positive or negative choice. Students/kids can pick which choice they think the character should make and that sends you off to the next page! This book promotes such a powerful message that we have the power to choose the choices we make. Such an important message to discuss in the classroom.
The Color Monster by Anna Llenas is a great book to use when talking about emotions and feelings. In this story, the Color Monster wakes up feeling confused and is a mix of colors. The little girl in the story tries to help him separate out his emotions so he can process how he’s feeling. They go through each color and discuss how he’s feeling (red – angry, yellow- happy, blue-sad). As they go through each one, it discusses what the emotion feels like and how the Color Monster can handle it. Kids have big emotions like the Color Monster and it can often be hard for them to identify them and know how to process them. This book is great for opening up that conversation!
Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker is a story that my students loved this year. First of all, it has superheroes – and most kids love superheroes! What I loved about it was that it tackled a common problem – having a bad day – and showed positive ways to handle it. While it does also show the silly negative ways superheroes can handle a bad day, it also discusses that it’s ok to feel your emotions. The book talks about acknowledging how they feel and then waiting for those emotions to pass. They say it’s ok to frown or be sad. All kids struggle with handling emotions and this story is a great way to discuss that in a positive, meaningful way.
Consequences can be hard thing for kids to understand. What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick shows what consequences can happen if people break the rules. The question – what if everybody did that? – is a question that we’d ask in my classroom when we’d run into problems. What if everybody ran to the front of the line? What if everybody shouted out? This can cover multiple SEL situations in the classroom.
Oh, blurting out! This happens in every classroom, every year, with every age group! While this won’t fully solve your blurting out issues it does bring it to light in a fun way. In My Mouth is a Volcano!, written by Julia Cook, Louis is constantly interrupting people, shouting out, and unable to control his impulses. His mouth is like a volcano because it always erupts. As the story continues he learns techniques to help him control himself. I highly recommend Julia Cook books for your SEL learning. In addition to a great story that kids relate to, she also always offers strategies to help kids cope with the habit or behavior.
Our Class is a Family is a brand new book by my teacher friend Shannon Olsen. This story talks about how our classroom is also like a family. It shares many of the things that we do – being there for one another, celebrating differences, helping each other when we have a tough day. It’s a great story for the beginning of the year to help build classroom community.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a touching story. It’s about a boy named Brian who feels invisible. He’s always left out of things, never invited to birthday parties, etc. Unfortunately we do have kids in our classes who feel this way. It breaks my heart, but it’s important for us to be aware and read books that can help them and help others make sure they do not feel invisible. This book can bring about powerful classroom discussions.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Marie Dismondy is a sweet story about a girl named Lucy. Lucy is dealing with a bully named Ralphie who is always making fun of her. Her grandpa tells her that she should always be proud of herself and stand up for herself. This story is a great story about teaching kids courage and how to stand up for themselves in a positive way.
It’s Hard to Be a Verb by Julia Cook is great for students who have difficulty staying focused and with self-control. This book is about a boy named Louis who wants to move all…of…the…time. I’m sure we’ve all had students who remind us of Louis. In the story, his mom ends up teaching him some techniques and strategies to help himself stay calm and still. Strategies that are great for all kids to learn!
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett is a great book for your overachievers and perfectionists. I might have been (and still am) one of these as a kid. In this book, Beatrice has never made a mistake in her life and she is known around town as the girl who never makes mistakes. She is perfect at school, at home, and everywhere she goes, but she starts to worry – what if she makes a mistake? Well then comes the talent show which leads to the first mistake of her life. She comes to realize that it’s ok to make mistakes and that you don’t have to be perfect. I can think of many students who also feel this way and would benefit from hearing this book.
Thank you for checking out my favorite books to support SEL in the classroom! I hope you’ll find these helpful to add to your classroom library!
If you are a primary teacher (kinder, first, second, or third) and you like collaborating and sharing ideas with other teachers then I have the Facebook group for you! Ashley from The Blessed OCDiva and I have a Primary Teachers group on Facebook that we’d love for you to join. It’s called ABCs – K to 3. This group is FREE to join and is a place to share ideas and learn from one another! We also do giveaways and Facebook LIVES in the group too! There will be a special summer giveaway next week – so join us today so you don’t miss it!
Back to School is an exciting and important time. You have your new list of students and families and a new chance to build relationships with both! Here are a few ideas to set the beginning of the year off on a positive note!
Building Relationships with Students
All About Me Bags – One of the activities I like to do the first week of school is an All About Me Bag. Students take a paper lunch bag and put 3 to 5 items from home about themselves. They then bring it back to school and share the bag with the class so we can get to know them. This is a great way to get to know your students and their interests.
Include Interests and Likes – Once you get to know your students and their interests include those things in your teaching. I like to do this with our weekly math word problems. In these word problems I use student names and include things they like. For example, we might solve an addition problem about Ben and his Pokemon card collection. Or we might solve a subtraction problem about Josie’s unicorn collection that she shares with her little sister. When you include your students’ interests in your lessons it’s a way to build relationships and also get students more engaged in what you’re teaching because it relates to them.
Morning Meeting – I know I talk about Morning Meeting all…of…the….time. But, honestly it’s that amazing and it’s another tool I use to build relationships with my students. For information and Morning Meeting Ideas click >>> HERE. The greeting component of Morning Meeting is a wonderful way to engage and personally greet each student in your class. I love using the share component as a way to get to know my students. Through various questions and prompts you’ll learn so much about things your students are interested in and things they like to do!
What are you favorite ways to build relationships with your students? Leave your ideas in the comment section below…
Back to school season is upon us and I always take a little time to reflect back on my first year teaching during this time. I remember being a brand new teacher, fresh out of college, about to teach in my first classroom by myself. It was an exciting time, but also a nerve-wracking and stressful time. To help ease that stress for new or newer teachers I decided to write down a few words of advice….
Always Put Your Students First
There’s a lot coming at you your first year teaching and when teaching in general. One of the biggest things I can recommend (and this will stand for every year that you’re a teacher) is that your ultimate goal every year is to put your students first. You will have people telling you what to do and offering all kinds of advice about how to handle kids, ways to teach lessons, dealing with parents, etc. But, at the end of the day you are the teacher in YOUR classroom. YOU know your students best. Remember that and keep your students at the forefront of everything.
Now with that, I’m not saying don’t listen to administration, your school district, and your colleagues, but you know your students. You know them better than anyone else and that is what matters. Your goal teaching needs to be engaging your students and making school a fun place for them to learn and grow.
Your To Do List Will Never Be Done
As a new teacher, my first year, I was literally staying at school until 7 or 8 o’clock every night for the first few weeks. I left every night exhausted and I left every night with that to do list not done. It was driving me crazy! I thought to be a successful teacher that I had to cross everything off on my list. But in all reality that to do list is never going to be done. And I don’t mean to make that sound negative.
Teachers will always have a billion things to do and that to do list will always be growing. It’s ok to not stay until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. Don’t even stay until 6 o’clock at night. That to do list will still be there tomorrow. Prioritize and get done what needs to be done, but then go home and take care of yourself.
Learn from Your Colleagues
I’ve recently seen the Memes (like the one below) about the best PD being down the hall and that is so true. When I was a new teacher I was really lucky to be working at a school with veteran teachers who knew how to engage students and also how to mentor a new teacher. I’m so grateful for that amazing start to my teaching career.
One of the best things I can recommend for new teachers is to not be afraid to ask for help and to learn from those around you. Ask to go in and observe your colleague’s classrooms. Ask them for advice on how to teach a specific skill or a lesson. Ask them to help you out with managing paperwork and parent/teacher conferences. You will find a wealth of knowledge in your school building and it’s important for you to tap into that.
On that note as well, invite people in to your classroom and speak up with your ideas too. New teachers have valuable ideas to share and can bring a spark of energy to a school and a team. Don’t be shy!
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
One of the biggest things as a new teacher is to try not to compare yourself to other teachers. What we see on Pinterest and what we see on Instagram and on blogs is everyone’s highlight reel. As Rachel Hollis says, “Comparison is the death of all joy, and the only person you need to be better than is the one you were yesterday.”
Her quote stands true in life and with teaching. Teachers – new and older do not need to be comparing themselves to anything they see on social media or even the teacher down the hall. We all have different strengths to celebrate and bring to the table and it’s important that the only comparison you’re making is with yourself. Don’t feel like you need to buy all the decor or try all of the teacher hacks. You be you and just try to be a better teacher than you were the day before.
Take Care of Yourself
Now the last one is a big hot topic right now. This goes for teachers who are new to teaching and teachers who have been teaching 30+ years – self care is important.
I am someone who tends to put other people first as do most teachers, which then means I’m last. I’m not saying abandon your duties or not do what you’re supposed to be doing, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Do things for you outside of school that will provide you with the rest and relaxation that you need. Teaching is a tough job and requires a lot of time and effort. It’s important not to lose yourself in that.
So for you that might look like working out, painting, going out with your friends for lunch, reading a book, working out, or going to the pool. Whatever your self-care is make sure you continue doing it even when you’re super busy teaching. You will be a better teacher if you are rested, relaxed, and have taken care of yourself.
So those are a few pieces of advice I have for new/newer teachers. I have been teaching now 13 years and am still working on following some of this same advice! It’s easier said than done! If you are a new/er teacher and have any comments, questions, or just need to chat – feel free to email me. We’re all in this crazy world of education together!
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.
Who loves Amazon? Raise your hand! I’m sure many of you if not all of you reading this right now are raising your hand. Let’s be real – Amazon has made all of our lives easier! You can just point and click and have many wonderful items shipped right to your front door!
With the new school year upon us I thought it would be a good idea to share my top 10 Amazon items that every teacher should have. I also have a storefront on Amazon that you can shop for supplies, books, and more!
The wireless doorbell has been a classroom management lifesaver for me. I use the doorbell to signal transitions, get the classes attention, and more. It comes with many different tones so you can change it up!
I know teachers are either Team Flair Pen or Team Ink Joy and I am Team Flair Pen all the way! They are my coveted pens that I love using for grading, planning, and more. They come in so many different colors and even different sizes.
I had been searching for a good staple remover for a long time. The cheap ones and pincher ones never quite removed things in a safe manner. This staple remover though is amazing! It can remove things from the walls easily and keeps the papers safe!
I know most schools have a laminator, but having one at home makes things easier. It’s nice to be able to laminate things whenever I want and I don’t have to wait in line or wait for the lamination to be refilled. I’ve had one of these for a few years and it is awesome for laminating games, task cards, bulletin board letters, and more.
I love bins. Tall bins, small bins, clear bins, colored bins – I just love bins! These bins here are ones I bought two years ago to house my mentor texts. I love that they have a latch so that the lid really does stay on! These are great for mentor texts, organizing stations, storing games and activities, and more.
Sit Spots are another one of my favorite teacher items. I had used a classroom rug for many years, but Sit Spots make it so easy to create specific spots in your classroom wherever you want! See more about why I love Sit Spots – HERE.
I know these are all the rage right now and I totally see why! The microphone is a fun addition to your classroom and can make any lesson engaging. I love having students use it during Morning Meeting share and presentations.
Thank you for checking out my Amazon Teacher Must-Haves. Comment below and let me know about your favorite Amazon goodies for the classroom.