Reaching the Difficult Students in your Classroom

29 October 2018

Let's face it, we are not all going to love every child we teach.  We are not going to click and form an unbreakable bond with every child we teach.  There are going to be some kids we are ready to kick out the door at the end of the year.  AND THAT IS OKAY!  Asking yourself these questions can aide in changing your mindset about these students and building connection to enhance their learning!

How many mornings do you walk into school with a wrinkle free, matching outfit, hair and make up complete?  Your actual children are at school on time with their hair brushed, bags packed, agendas signed, school projects and homework turned in.  Your kids even have a matching outfit down to their socks. you casually drop each child off giving a hug or a kiss on the cheek and head to your classroom. You walk into your classroom knowing you are totally up to date with grading and your lesson plans. You just can't wait to start the day with your class completely stress free?  

I don't know about you but this is not what my morning looks like.  Most mornings Raelynn (my four year old daughter) is yelling at me because she doesn't like the outfit I picked out for her.  We get in a knock down drag out to brush her hair or just throw it into the "messy bun,"  we do way to often.  We are running out the door without our lunches or breakfast so we eat at the cafeteria.  Making me even more late to my pile of ungraded papers and blank lesson plans for math which I have to teach in about 45 minutes.  

Odds are your students have had the same morning as you! Starting your day in fluster will only result in you or your students loosing their patience quickly.

 The first step in handling stressful students, stressful classes, or even to recover from a stressful morning is to be mindful.  Having mindfulness is maintaining and being aware of your thoughts.  Learning how to become aware of your thoughts is good practice for your students as well!

Here is what we do in my third grade classroom!  Every morning, after we watch the morning announcements, after lunch count, and when everyone is in a seat, we take a few minutes to "meditate."  We take a few minutes (sometimes literally one minute) to take a breath from our ever so stressful morning and get our minds ready to learn.  When I first started this procedure in the classroom I was clueless! However, here are a few websites I have used to get us started.

We started with Head Space. This is a student friendly website.  There is a 10 day free meditation program to help you set mindful meditation in the classroom.  

Go Noodle is another great website we have used. In the "breathing" section there are one minute videos!

We are currently using Annaka Harris.  Student friendly website where students are guided into using mindfulness breathing, hearing, seeing, friendly wishes, breathing, and seeing.

This 2-5 minutes everyday becomes an essential part of you and your students day.  

Many times if you are frustrated with a certain behavior from a child, the rest of the class probably is too.  Creating a class goal, empowers the entire class.  Much of the redirecting and modeling by you will be shifted to the class. As a class talk about things that are going well and things your students would like to see go a bit differently.  As a group, not only come up with a class goal, but also MAKE  A PLAN, on how and when the goal will be achieved by.  

For example, a select few of students are having a hard time transitioning quickly and quietly to another activity.   Scaffold students into making this goal.  Ask students how we could take steps to make this a better procedure in the classroom. Example steps may include: 

1. Have a mock transition where student practice procedures every morning and expectations are talked discussed (use of anchor chart)
2.   Students will self assess their transition, at every transition time.  
3. Teacher can take pictures of students following correct procedures and post for student reference.  
4. This goal will be achieved in 2 weeks or reevaluated

Today, in education, we are learning our most difficult students, often times, come from  unique home lives or are going through rough situations at home.  With this being said not every child who can't follow basic classroom procedures are students who have experienced trauma.  

A traumatized student is a student who has experienced a deeply distressing or disturbing experience and DO NOT have a solid support system at home.  When I began my research on teaching students with trauma, the stories and examples I was hearing had me thinking not only I was a traumatized student but also my four year old daughter.  WRONG!  I had a super support system at home as well as my daughter.  Students who have experienced trauma and do not have a support systems at home do not come to school to learn but simply to have this support.  Whether they are seeking your support and attention in a negative or positivity way, many times this is the cause of the undesirable behaviors your are experiencing while your teaching your reading lesson about finding main idea.  

ALTHOUGH, this next piece of advice is going to be the most difficult, I encourage you to get to know your difficult students in every way possible. I have used the 2 minutes for 10 days rule.  Often we have a heads up as to who our difficult kid are going to be in our class.  Therefore, I start the very first day of school, giving the child 2 minutes everyday ( at the same time everyday) to talk about anything they want.  The first couple of days its like pulling teeth to make a connection or to get them to talk. However, by the tenth day your trying to cut them off after 2 minutes.  This procedure allows you to not only connect with the student on their level but to also get a better understanding of where they are coming from.  Their stories allow you get a small glimpse of their lives outside of the classroom.  This is only the first step to reaching these children!  

Leave a comment!  How do you connect and reach the difficult students in your classroom?

Stay posted for more strategies and support on educating the traumatized student.

3 Tips to Stay Organized with flexible seating

15 August 2018

This will be my fourth year in third grade and fourth year integrating flexible seating in my classroom. One of the biggest things I have learned in order for you and your students to be  successful is staying ORGANIZED!  This is something I have struggled with.  This year I have made some big changes in order to reach my goal.

Invest in bins for your lesson plans, copies, materials, etc.  The last couple of years I have tried to spend the money I had on student seating options instead of investing some of the money for teacher organization.  Well, that is exactly where I went wrong.  My papers were always everywhere and I never knew where things were. I invested in 2 10 drawer carts.  I am able to keep my guided reading group materials here along with extra school supplies for student use as well as my own.  I even labeled them to make them look extra pretty!  Here are the labels for free for you to get started!

Group PODS
For the last couple of years I have always struggled with what to do with student materials.

I have tried each child getting their own bins.  BUT who has space for 26 bins?

I have tried keeping the majority of their materials in their lockers. BUT who wants 26 kids running outside the classroom every 10 minutes.

I ended the year,  last year, with getting three drawer bins for groups of 4-5 students.  They worked great!  Students kept their bag of books on the bottom drawer, white boards and markers in the middle drawer, and their agendas and folders in the top drawer!  I loved it as well as the students.  Because we are 1:1 with chrome books we were able to keep our Chromebook ontop of the drawers for easy access!

Paper Keeper
Finally, find a spot for students to file papers in a central location.  For example, I originally had students keep an additional folder in the group pod bins.  In the folder they kept things I wanted to stay at school. You would mostly find things that were unfinished in these folders.  However, it was a mess trying to find and get these unfinished papers back! The desired papers were either ripped, lost, or thrown away.  This year I have a filing system for students to keep their "keeper papers" in.  I am also going to have students turn in any work such as homework in their file as well.  This will help when a student forgets to put their name on their paper.  This will help me know who has or does not have work complete.  It will also allow me to help facilitate organizational strategies with my students.  Here are a few ideas you could do:

What other types of organizational tools do you use in the classroom?  Comment below! 

10 Things Every New Teachers should Know-Tips, Tricks, & more

11 March 2018

I am just wrapping up my third year teaching. I can't believe I have been in the classroom for three years now! As I look back every year and reflect and make goals for the new year, I laugh at myself for some of the mistakes I have made.  Here is a list of 10 things I wish I would have known my first year which would have made my first couple of years a little smoother.

1. Value your veteran teachers

Leaving college and starting my first job as an educator, I could not have been more excited.  I couldn't wait to start making an impact in children's lives everyday.  I was motivated. I was talented.  And I was fresh.  BUTTTT I didn't know as much as I thought I did.  Of course, I knew the newest standards like the back of my hand.  I had a lot of new fresh ideas to bring to the school and integrate into the curriculum.  However, I soon found out, my fellow veteran colleagues came with tons of resources.  They came with multiple discipline strategies.  They have loads of advice to give when you are ready.  And, the can predict a number of issues that could go wrong when your planning!

2. Set your hours

It is really easy to get wrapped up and invested in your classroom.  This is especially  if you are single person without kids or a significant other! From day one set a schedule. Only allow yourself to work until your set time.  Then, go home! This will make you a better teacher.  All teachers even the best take breaks!

3. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate 

Collaboration is your best friend, especially with those veteran teachers.  I found collaborating with my third grade team happens pretty frequently, which is great!  However, sometimes my ideas were not always valued because I was inexperienced. SOO, this is when I stopped taking credit for my ideas. I joined a ton of facebook and Pinterest teacher groups.  This allowed me to collaborate with a ton of new and veteran teachers.  I was able to compare and modify my ideas.  Then, I brought them to my team and said I modified it with something I read off a blog.  I have gained some amazing relationships from these collaboration groups.  I strongly suggest as a new teacher, not only collaborating with your team at school but finding a social media group.  Connect with educators outside your hallway.  I have been able to not only collaborate but connect our classrooms together through pen pals and reading buddies as well!

4. Reflect!

Any teacher who has just graduated, I am pretty sure has been drilled with the act of reflection.  I know I was.  As you get wrapped up in everyday classroom routines, you tend to lose this or forget the value of spending the time to do it!  You may not reflect about every lesson of everyday.  Start with looking at one lesson a day. Write down on your lesson plans how you thing it went and one thing you can improve.  Take a look what I started doing this year.

After each lesson, while the kids are transitioning, I put a start over the plan if it went well.  Any notes I have are on the bottom.  Anything I want to change or add or make sure I add in my plans for the next day or next week.  

5. Prioritize your reflections

Many of the reflections that I made my first year were things I could work on the next day. Classroom management, prepping more in advance, differentiating were just a few of the things I could work on right away.  Take the reflections that you have written down and work on them! prioritize and use the reflections.  Work on one thing at a time, then move to the next.  

6. Acknowledge your inexperience 

Being a new teacher is an extremely wild ride.  There will be times you will feel like you won't get it all done.  You will think will it ever get better?  Am I doing a good job?  Yes. Yes. And yes.   Know your inexperience and your busyness does effect your colleagues as well. My first year teaching I was so determined to make the most of EVERY moment I had with my students.  This effected everyone around me and I didn't even know it!  We were often times late to specials because I wanted to ask them questions out the door and didn't allow enough time.  My inexperience effected the teachers around me.   Some rules I found the school or my team made to be silly.  So, I didn't abide by them or follow through with them.   I didn't follow certain procedures such as listening to morning announcements or referral slips.  Although ignoring much of these procedures made my life easier at the time, it annoyed and made life more difficult for the teachers around me and I didn't even realize it!  Now as a third year teacher I found myself doing everything I didn't like doing or hated!  Most of the rules and procedures that the school as put into place are there for a reason.  Some of them are going to be hard to stick to or follow through with.  However, acknowledge you are having a hard time with certain procedures to your colleagues and insure you are working on getting better.

7. Avoid gossiping 

At all costs avoid gossiping at work!  There are going to be days someone is getting on your nerves.  It may be a student, a parent, a staff member, who ever it is do not gossip about it in the teacher's lounge or hallway. Yes, collaborating and talking about an issue in a tactful way is important.  There is a time and a place for it and make sure you are discussing it during those times.  

8. Check and Double check before you leave for the day

When the bell rings and your students are gone, go through the next day.  Do you have everything ready for the next day?  I like to do a mini walk through of each lesson. Do I have all of the materials I need?  Do I have the date changed?  Did I make the copies I need? Did I check the school calendar and am aware of any last minute assemblies or drills? I think making sure your next day is 100% ready trumps emails and phone calls!  I am sure to do this, even today, before I do anything else.  

9. Keep somethings simple 

I am just now using this advice.  Somethings are meant to be kept easy.  This is for your sanity as well as your students'.  Your first couple years keep aspects of your day simple.  For example, I have started keeping my morning work simple.  I used to hate having my kiddos complete a silly worksheet.  I wanted them to be excited to come to school. I thought in order to do this I must start the day with a bang.  ERR Wrong!  Morning work is a time for me to get everyone organized so we can start the day off relaxed and on the right foot.  Having students get on IXL or complete a worksheet is NOT the end of the world.  I have this on my goal to one day change. As of right now, the 10 minutes students complete a worksheet is not the end of the world.  

10. Don't compare yourself

My biggest advice is to NOT compare yourself to anyone!  Don't compare yourself to the teachers on blogs or Pinterest. Don't compare yourself to your mentor teachers. Don't compare yourself with any other teacher!  As long as you are doing your best and looking at what you can improve, your doing great!

Veteran teachers comment with advice you have!
New teachers tell me what you would like help on in the comments!

How to understand the NGS Science standards in 2 easy steps!

21 January 2018


Okay we have these new science standards, right?  I am sure they are amazing and will transform my classroom.  I am so excited to implement them into my classroom, however, HOW DO I READ THEM!?  We are all saying this right??

My best teaching partner (Tess Dawson) and I were lucky enough to be able to present at a local PD.  We were asked to break down the standards and all of the mumbojombo to get down to the nitty gritty. These steps should help you understand what the standards are expecting you to do along with give you FREE resources. 

Tess found this AMAZING quote by Alison Gopnik, who is a Professor of Psychology at Berkeley and recognized leader in the study of how children learn. She asked...

This quote hit home for me. (No pun intended :) ) Science is no longer about just reading and memorizing vocabulary words. Students need to be doing science and conducting experiments and inquiries. Even our littlest learners!

So, lets get to the standards!

Disciplinary Core Ideas (orange box):

 The standards are broken up into grade level.  Within each grade level the science standards are broken into "Disciplinary Core Ideas."  This is like the BIG IDEA. The core ideas for science within each grade level are 

1. Life Science
2. Earth and space science
3. Physical science 
4. Engineering Technology and the application of science 

Science and Engineering Practices (blue box):

Within these disciplinary core ideas there are 8 practices that are used.  It uses the process of inquiry and skills to investigate and dustin solutions to problems.  

1. Asking questions
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematical thinking
6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions engaging in argument for evidance 
7.  Obtaining, communicating, and evaluating information 

Cross Cutting (green box):

These are the patterns that form across all science practices.   Patterns, similarity, and diversity; Cause and effect; Scale, proportion and quantity; Systems and system models; Energy and matter; Structure and function; Stability and change.

Here is a great 2 minute video form more understanding of the colored boxes. 

So to wrap up the colored boxes this is what you need to understand.

The Disciplinary Core Ideas (orange box) are everything students need to KNOW.  

The Science and Engineering Practices (blue box) are what students need to DO.  
You can also look at this as the assessment component. 

Crosscutting Concepts (orange box) are how students will CONNECT concepts. 

These three standards fall under the same domain. This explains the final number attached.  
K-ESS3-1 says Kindergarten, Earth and human activity under Earth and Space Science, number 1.
K-ESS3-2 says Kindergarten, Earth and human activity under Earth and Space Science, number 2.
K-ESS3-3 says Kindergarten, Earth and human activity under Earth and Space Science, number 3.

Now to the BEST PART

The red words are the best part.  The red words give you examples.  They give yo assessment boundaries and clarification statements.  

So to sum up the most important part:

Blue box: What students should DO (assessment)
Orange box: What students should KNOW
Red words: EXAMPLES 

If you have any questions please comment!  Hope this helped!

Have a bunch of Christmas wrapping paper left over? Here's what to do!

What You Need:

  • Cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Recycled Christmas cards
  • Glue

What You Do:

  1. Who does your child want to make an ornament for?  Help her draw the appropriate initials on the cardboard.  If a letter is too small or narrow it will be hard to decorate.  Help her cut out the letters if she is using a heavier cardboard.
  2. There are two ways to use the cards to decorate the individual letters.  The easiest way is to help your child find a card with a pattern, such as snowflakes, candles, or ornaments, that will look good when cut out in the shape of the initial.  Help your child position the letter on the card, trace it and cut it out. 
  3. Glue the card cut out and the cardboard letter together. 
  4. The second way to decorate an initial yields a tiled effect.  Help your child find numerous smaller images such as snowflakes, stars and small figures. 
  5. Have your child cut out these images and glue them to the cardboard initial.  It is okay if the images extend beyond the edge of the initial.   Just make sure she covers the cardboard completely. 
  6. Allow glue to dry and then trim around the initial.
  7. Now its time to dress things up a little.  Help your child trace the edges of the letter with glue.  Sprinkle with glitter. 
  8. She can also use glitter to highlight stars or candles or even Rudolph’s red nose.
  9. When the glue has dried, tape an ornament hook to the back of the initial for easy hanging.
  10. In addition to the initials of family members, your child could also spell out a variety of Christmas words such as Peace or Joy.  Soon she will have festive holiday decorations for every room of the house.

Lots more educational activities at

3 Ways to teach students to use the internet safely

18 June 2017

Internet safety is becoming more and more prevalent as technology is increasingly becoming part of our day.  With that being said we need to teach all age groups about how to be safe while using the web.  With this interactive notebook you can teach your students how to be safe on the web electronically and interactively using the webs tools and enhancements.

First begin by talking about the the Rings of Responsibility 

The Rings of Responsibility invite students into the digital community.  Students are engaged in videos, writing, researching, and dragging information to complete the slides! 

Students then learn about the differences between private and personal information. It is important to teach students to understand the differences and be able to actively think about what they are publishing on the web.

Students begin by watching a video.  Then, students are able to research the differences between each type of information in many different forms.  

Finally, students learn about cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, just as bullying, is an issue in and out of school.  Cyberbullying happens 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  

Get this interactive google slides for you classroom here!!  Great for student independent use on google classroom or as whole group teaching! 

5 things to do instead of a morning work worksheet

15 October 2016

Do you want to spice up your morning routine?  Although morning work worksheets, serve their purpose, I have found a numerous amount of other activities that can meet the needs of your students and get your students excited to come to class everyday!! Morning work does a great job spiraling skills, however, you can do that with these ideas too!  

Flipped classrooms are wonderful!! A flipped classroom allows students to work at their own pace and you get the chance to meet one-on-one with students and as small groups.  Here is a little insight our classes' flipped classroom.  Every morning students come in the classroom, unpack, go to the bathroom, turn in homework, and make a lunch choice.  When all of these activities are complete they grab a Chromebook and log into their gmail. Now we are not one-to-one at our school.  But, I begged my third grade coworkers to allow our class to have the Chromebooks in the morning. (Thank goodness)  If you are not one to one you can still do the flipped classroom!  Stay tuned to the end of the posts for more ideas! 

Anyways back to the flipped classroom ideas! Once they long into their gmail accounts they log into our classroom google account.  I have the assignments very clearly labeled for students to independently work on their assignment.  A flipped classroom is a video of a lesson followed by an activity. I make a video and an assignment to go with it.  Sometimes the assignment is online and sometimes it is paper based.  Right now we are working on word problems. Below is an example of one assignment.

Students are to watch a video about word problems with too much information.  Students have whiteboards and markers out during the video.  The video has students pause the video, complete the problem, and then the video goes through the answers!!  Great for immediate feedback.  Then students complete the google doc.  Students are to create their own word problems with too much information.  
Flipped classrooms are great to incorporate for morning routines!  This is a time to get in extra practice for any skill, students can't wait to come right in to class and get working, and you can work with small groups!  
Check out our classroom you tube channel for FREE videos! 

Have students work with words!  This is wayyyy easier prep for you and kids love it!  Have a work with words bucket of tool readily available.  Students will come in and immediately get started practicing their words.  To incorporate technology you can have some students use spelling city to practice their words! Now you do not need to find time to practice words during the day!  
Here is our work with words bin.
In our bin we have lots of tools! Play dough 
Stamps and stamp pads

Scrabble titles 


and a keyboard!  This is a class favorite.  Good keyboarding practice too!

Have a special morning journal!  

This is a month journal packet which we are totally in love with in Ms. Schrage's third grade.  You may have a writing prompt on the board for friends who have a hard time picking something to write about but ultimately they can decide who to write about.  These great monthly writing packets come with space for a picture as well!  This way students can write and then add a great picture to go with their writing.  We took it one step farther and we made a grammar rubric to go with our journal packets. As a class, we decided on what we should have in our journals.  Once they have completed their writing, students grade themselves using the rubric. Then, I grade the journals using the same rubric.  I leave a little note.  They can't wait to read the note the next time they write!  
We even peer edit once a week with our journals! 

Get your students engaged in math centers first thing in the morning!  We have a few different math center choices in the morning.  I absolutely love Hope King's month math centers. This allows a spiral review all year long of skills.  Also EASY differentiation!  

During math centers, students can choose to do Hope King's folder choices, independently or with a partner.  Students can play kaboom. To incorporate technology, some students are able to choose math on the computer.  This allows me to meet one on one with students and with groups as well! 

These are not from Hope King....I made my own to fit the needs of my students, but kept her idea.  These are not for sale :(

This is a new activity we are doing in our classroom. We are in love!! The discussion post we use after we finish our flipped classroom.  Students finish their flipped classroom activity.  Then, students move onto our discussion post.  Once a week Students are required to read an article of my choice. I get my articles online from Newsela, Tween tribune, and dogonews. Students read the article.  Then I make a google form for comprehension questions.  After they complete the comprehension questions, students answer a question, in a paragraph.  I make up the question. This is the discussion portion.  Students answer the question.  Then, students are required to comment on two of their classmates's posts.  Here is an example of our discussion post!
Again we access this through classroom google but not mandatory! 
You see here the google forms of comprehension questions and the article on the bottom.  Then students posts a comment to answer the question. The question they are answering is" Describe the four things a plant needs to live." They are to answer this question in at least four sentences.  

Then students are to comment on one of their classmates' posts.

This is meeting soo many standards!! Collaborating, researching, and writing! 

Lots of these ideas can be modified.  For example, if you are not one to one, these activities can still be done!  For example, you could do all 5 of these activities. Group your students into five "ish" groups. Have students go to one activity a day!  

I hope we gave you a few more ideas other than just using that boring oh morning work worksheet! 

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