Youtube Playlists

I have inserted links to 3 new youtube playlists I’ve created for the classroom in my Transition Music Page. For the positive songs, I usually don’t display the video so that students can focus on their morning or work activity. All you have to do is click on the tab labeled “Transition Music” at the top of the post. For convenience, they are here as well. In my past district, the use of youtube was allowed. Of course, I will follow the guidelines of my new district. Brent Vasicek was an inspiration to some of the happy songs chosen.

Transition Videos

Brainbreak Videos

Happy, Positive Music

I hope you enjoy the lists. I reviewed every video, but if I’ve missed something that could be considered inappropriate, please let me know. Also, if you have suggestions of videos to add to the playlists, I’m happy to listen.

“Music is a piece of art that goes in the ears straight to the heart.” ~ author unknown

Latest Technology Finds

This week I came across two teacher tech tools to use in the classroom.

First of all, I joined The 40 Hour Workweek Club earlier this month; it’s a year long cohort to learn more efficient teaching strategies.  No, I’m not hoping to reduce my hours to 40 hours per week, but I thought it would be helpful to learn more organization tips.  It seems that much of what we learn as teachers is through trial and error.  When I can use professional development to avoid pitfalls and improve my teaching in a collaborative manner, then I’m all in.  In the Club, we are beginning with planning and time management as a means to organize before school begins.  Angela Watson shares great resources to help with this.  What I wanted to find for time management was a paperless structure that I could easily access.  I tried Google Keep, then Google Sheets, then stumbled upon Trello, a software and app to manage tasks.  Guys, I can create task lists for home, school, lesson planning, project based learning, etcetera AND choose participants to join so it’s collaborative in real time.  Yes!  As far as the Workweek Club is concerned, I am receiving great value out of this program already.  The number of resources we are given is outstanding, plus the shared information comes in different formats so you can choose what works best for you.

Then proof that Facebook can sometimes be a valid use of time, I discovered  I already use to manage our multiple reminders for transitions, but I can see using the timer for a quick write, partner discussion, or other use.  I usually use Online-Stopwatch.  However, I prefer that this screen has multiple tools incorporated into one page.  The traffic light could be used as a reminder during BAS assessments or one to one conferences as a visual for when it is appropriate to approach the teacher or not. It could be a gentle reminder for volume control, but I saw another app called Too Noisy that has incentives for volume control that I’m interested in if I have access to Ipads.  Another tool on the screen are the work symbols for volume expectations.  This might be a great visual at the front of the class if the screen is not being used for the lesson/activity.  There are other gadgets on the screen, but I’ve discussed the ones of personal interest.  Overall, I wanted to document this website so I can try it out this coming year.  Hopefully, it will evolve.

I love technology when it’s relevant and makes work easier.  If there is a more effective alternative, then I think we should teach the students to evaluate when and how to use technology.  We’re still in the infant stages of using technology in the classroom so we want to be careful to not use “a square peg in a round hole,” but use the right tool for the right job.

*I want to add this website: because it’s an excellent interactive clock.  You can turn off the time, then check your answer.  I found it earlier this summer.

Get Your Teach On – Day 1 Review and Reflection

Wow – I have met the energizer bunny in human form.  Hope King brings a dynamic presentation about bringing engagement into the classroom, as well as close reading, which is one of the main reasons I chose this workshop.  In addition to Hope, Wade King, her husband, and Amy Lemons of Step into Second Grade.  I don’t want to share too much – you can find the daily breakdown on the website Get Your Teach On as I linked earlier.  However, I have to tell any readers that may wander upon this blog that it was worth it.  I came away with several ideas, and fresh enthusiasm.  After giving our heart and efforts throughout a school year, isn’t this what we are often looking for beyond rest and relaxation?  (On this note, kayaking is in my near future, “Oh yeah!”)

There was so much information that I believe participants can come away with many varieties of strategies that differ from one another.  My takeaways?  To try to insert something different (or novel) every day and to add a smile.  I thought about this.  My students (actually I often call them my children – borrowed, but teachers understand what I mean) know I care about them and try to bring their interests into the room, but during today’s presentation I had to ask myself how often I am not smiling.  I like people.  I enjoy life.  Yet, I don’t think I’m walking through the day with a smile persistently on my face.  When I see someone in the hallway?  Yep.  When I greet or say good-bye?  Yep.  Well, that’s a small portion.  What about during lessons?  Certainly, when I share a great book or a new math game, but the students are seeing my face ALL day long.  I think that’s worthy of upping the smile quota so I’ll add it to my yearly goal.  By the way, the close reading presentation was exactly what I needed.  I can’t wait to implement what I’ve learned.

In addition to these ideas, we learned many new math games.  I look forward to incorporating these.  I’ve been researching more on Guided Math trying to decide if I would like to try rotations.  Right now, we have a number talk or CGI word problem, mini teach, whole class practice, partner or individual practice, then games to reinforce/review concepts.  During this time, I work in small group on concepts missed or number sense.  I’ve asked mentors to observe my lessons with good reviews, but I still have this feeling that I can improve it.

It was a fabulous day, which is ending in solitude in a hotel room.  Happy lady.  Review  for day 2 coming soon!

Organizing my Room

Without knowing my classroom layout (or grade for that matter), I’ve been spending a couple of hours each morning while my children are asleep organizing for a classroom, creating Power Point Procedure Slides and binders such as Parent Communication Logs (or just browsing ideas on Pinterest with coffee). While working in the second and third grade rooms this year, I wanted an all-in-one system where I can account for all students in one glance. While in Hobby Lobby one day for a daughter’s school project, I saw a dry erase calendar for sale and envisioned it by my door – a student tracker. Few revisions were made though I did scrap the words on the buttons – they couldn’t be read from across the room and weren’t necessary. At the top are a row of green and red magnetic push pins to show attendance on the roster number each morning. Additionally, there are dry erase tabs to write student names in sharpie for substitutes and for the beginning of the year while matching names to numbers. Plus, kids love to see their names – it’s more personal. When students leave the room, they simply put the appropriate button in their square. I downloaded an Avery Template into Microsoft Word, then found clipart images that represented various school locations.  I bought the wooden circles from an online craftstore, along with epoxy bottlecap dots to cover the labels with a finished polish.  Each color/symbol represents a specific location except for yellow = resource/extension. I don’t feel these need to be distinguished; I know whether a student is receiving TAG support or intervention. I prefer the positive symbolism of the light bulb. Each student is leaving to receive support to reach a personal best. Blue = water fountain and Black = restroom. Only 1 boy and girl may leave at a time. Silver = nurse. I have two buttons in case a buddy needs to walk with a student to the nurse for any reason. Green = library and Purple = Office/Other. Because the board is dry erase, I can also write or have a student write short notes within the squares if necessary.  Student being picked up at 1:15?  Write the time in his/her square.  Also, in a fire drill, I can grab the board for quick reference.  I can’t wait to try this out!

Classroom Management Calendar

Open House Trailer “Success in School”

I wondered, “If trailers work for kids, why not for adults?”  Along these lines, I created an animoto trailer on how to help students succeed in school.  I’ll have handouts/PowerPoint as well.  I found a great reading data sheet on Makayla Schenkelberg’s blog, “Stuff Students Say and Other Classroom Treasures.”  I made it into a jpeg for the video after I downloaded her free pdf on TeachersNotebook.  Here’s my first parent video:

Class Rules

Golden Rules

A friend of mine just became a second grade teacher.  This is exciting for multiple reasons – one simply the fulfillment of a dream and two – I discovered I am student teaching in second grade.  We’re thrilled to have this common ground because it’s one way we can feel connected since she is no longer a classmate.  Anyway, this morning we discussed class rules briefly (through texting).  She’s required to have 4 for the classroom.  This is interesting because my supervisor just recommended this week that we keep rules short and somewhat broad.  This allows for teacher discretion to consider each behavior miscue in context.  Did Johnny’s parents just divorce?  We want to take this situation into account.  There’s still accountability, but fair does not always mean the exact same.  Different children have different needs.  Okay, so back to the rules.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Be respectful and kind to yourself, others, and property.
  2. Follow directions.
  3. Try your best.
  4. Be positive.

It’s not anything new.  I plan to have students at the beginning of the year discuss what rules should be in the room, though students generally come up with rules that coordinate with what  I have written.   I will word the rules in accordance to our student led discussion perhaps with a little guidance.  Sound Sneaky? Not really – rules of fairness, respect, work ethic,  and a good attitude all cover the rules students will suggest because it’s what makes a community work well.  Expectations, how it looks, how it sounds, and why this is desirable will be discussed throughout the year.  In line with this, I just bought over 175 pages of a reward system that has fewer material rewards off of TeachersPayTeachers from a seller, Mel D.  It’s a dangerous, yet resourceful site – many items are free.

Kagan Workshop Again!

Back in January, I attended the first two days of a Kagan Structure workshop. I couldn’t wait to complete the week. Last week I finished the final 3 days of cooperative learning, thanks to my physics professor allowing an early exit with the help of a friendly email from another professor. The bonus? I was in a hotel room for 3 nights all alone – better than a spa anyday.

The Workshop
Our presenter’s name was Angela. I love to listen to a great presenter and she was exceptional. I don’t recall hearing one “um” or pause – she just flowed. Okay, now for the content. I can’t help, but support the use of Kagan structures. It’s a way to let the children move and get students involved in learning without an easy path to mentally check out of the classroom or pass the buck to a more eager participant. One structure called “One stray” allows for adding a little change into the classroom without it being overwhelming. One student from each group moves to another group, either for one activity to report back to the original group or as a means of changing teams. Strays can be increased to 2-3 changes if needed/desired. “Spend a buck” has a fun, yet easy method of providing voter choice. Each student within a group receives 10 “bucks” for the use of voting. Everyone puts 1 dollar on each team member choice, then the remaining 6 bucks can be distributed in any way. Everyone receives at least 2 votes using this method. I imagine group projects, literature circles, and classroom celebration as areas where “Spend a buck” can be used. Another favorite is Inside Outside Circle where students switch partners when one circle moves. This provides 50% engagement at all times, movement, and multiple perspectives. Chairs can be used for younger grades. Now with a full week of Kagan training, in addition to training by several professors, I’m ready to roll.

My Take Away
Because structures are simply methods of increasing participation and not content based, It is my hope to use the many structures I’ve learned in every classroom. A strength is that differentiation is built into the program or easily incorporated. I strongly recommend this workshop to any who have opportunity. Check out the Kagan website. At this last event, there were educators from preschool through high school. I couldn’t help buying software to visually organize several structures I plan to use; I can’t wait to try them out.

Side note – I used the word structures 6 times and the word buck/s 4 times. I hate repeating myself, but they were the proper terms.

Classroom Management Experiments

Kagan Stuctures, the Music Wand, and Brain Breaks

Yesterday I subbed in an excellent school with third graders.  I brought several of my usual bag of tricks for experimentation.  Kagan structures for collaborative work (or breaks) and the music wand to gain attention continue to be hits with the students.  I used a brain break during an hour long session of math worksheets.  As I ran around a tiny table in front of table groups, a hit in itself, the students stood up to perform “the wave”.  When first being introduced to brain breaks, I wondered if the interruption would serve as a hindrance to getting back into the groove of working.  To date, this has not been my experience.  Students love the change in routine, then continue working with a wonderful attitude.  It deepens the teacher/student relationship which is interesting.


Many in this group had not heard of twitter, yet this didn’t stop the enjoyment of tweeting about personal events.  If the students worked hard, they could tweet on a large post-it anything of interest.  Here’s my header post-it:









Best result of using this method was learning more about each student.  I visualize book responses, predictions, and inferring author’s intent in a very informal style which can still stimulate higher level thinking.  A winner idea courtesy of Pinterest.

Class Dojo

Another experiment was the use of Class Dojo.  Assuming I would not be using a computer in the classroom, I printed out a Class Dojo page with student roster numbers, table numbers, and one slot for “Whole Class”.  Each slot has its own avatar in the appearance of a monster.  I wish there were more monsters so each student could have an original image, but I believe I can create additional avatars if I choose.  I’ll check into this later.  I informed the students how I receive the best classes everytime I sub, but wanted a better way to brag to their teacher at the end of the day.  Because of this, I printed out the avatar sheet.  During the day, I would catch students performing three model behaviors: following directions, respecting people and property, and staying on task.  There were no rewards from me, but I would leave the paper for the teacher so she could see how wonderfully her students behaved.  Points, once earned, could not be taken away.  This form of positive reinforcement was received very well for an initial trial.  It will be interesting to see the effects over a longer term.  I really have to thank my prior mentor during my internship for modelling true positive reinforcement.  It was quite an experience to observe how effectively she managed the classroom without calling attention to any negative behavior.


At the end of the day, I would conclude all management experiments as successful.  Three teachers asked for my name and number because the students responded well.  This was a bonus since this is a school where I would love to be a part of the team – very positive, friendly, down to earth dynamics.

Kagan Workshop

Short Term Goals

As I prepare for interning this semester, I have a few ideas I’d like to try from my recent Kagan workshop.  Rally Coach is a guided practice structure to use where students monitor one another, providing support and reinforcement.  If student A makes a mistake, then student B gives a couple of specific tips before teaching the concept.  I would like to try this for math and reading for fluency.  Each student takes turns with active participation, while the other student coaches as needed.  In preparation for a lesson, I need to remember to consider what approach is needed to explain how to provide specific tips without giving the answer.  This appears to be the trickiest aspect of this structure.

The other structure I would like to try is “All Write Round Robin.”  Everyone writes all ideas/lists presented as students take turns around the table sharing thoughts.  The appeal here is that there is movement aligned with active listening.  Rather than passively sitting while waiting for a turn, students still have a job to perform requiring increased engagement.  I like the individual accountability here as well; there’s concrete evidence that each student has received all information.

Lastly, I wish to implement gambits.  This is the social protocol built into the structures: greetings, words of thanks/praise/acknowledgement, and polite comments of parting.  This was a huge “Aha” moment for me – the concept of intentionally incorporating social skills within a lesson beyond community building.  It is such a simple idea which makes it easily overlooked.  Given today’s social media, the importance of teaching verbal communication skills is increasingly important.  I have daughters who have sat next to a friend in the same room as they text one another, or worse, ignore one another while playing on individual gadgets.

The Workshop

This was an amazing experience.  Instructors, Sarah and Carol, were simply excellent.  Sarah sat down to show me resources within the book and online which may prove useful for college research/papers.  I definitely plan to attend further sessions.  The overall methodology can be used regardless of grade level or content.  The idea of Kagan structures is to use a cooperative format with the intention to maximize principles of “PIES”: positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction (as defined by Kagan).  Several of my professors have used these structures which led to my initial interest.  The Kagan leadership was faultless.  Check out  To date, I have attended Days 1 and 2.  My hope is to find a nearby workshop for Days 3 and 4 before I student teach in August.