Friday, January 15, 2016

I've got a secret!

I've been keeping a secret, and today I FINALLY shared it with my students and thought I should share it with all of you as well!

I gave my students this riddle page. They had to solve the multiplication problems and match the products to a letter to solve the code and discover my secret!

Here's it is, so you can take a minute and guess my secret along with my students! I put it on Facebook today as well so that I could finally announce to the rest of our family and friends!

O-H So Blessed

Did you get it?! If you don't want to figure out what it says, here's the answer....


Yep, that's right! I'm pregnant! My husband and I are expecting our first child in July and we are so excited to finally be sharing the news with everyone we know!

I made a version of this fun riddle page for any teacher to use! It says "Your teacher is having a baby!" using multiplication or addition facts, instead of having a specific teacher's name. If you or a colleague ever need to reveal a pregnancy to their class, you can download by clicking here!

Thanks so much for sharing in my secret today with my hubby and I! I can't wait to continue sharing more with you as we continue this new journey!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Classroom Management Part Four: VIP Students!


What does that mean to you when you hear that someone is a VIP?

Typically, I think of A-list celebrities and folks who have boatloads of cash. People our society deems "important." I also think of backstage passes to concerts. Generally, that's called a VIP pass, or something. Again, something society deems as "important."

I first saw the idea for this classroom management strategy on Instagram, and WISH I could remember who posted it and even came up with this fabulous idea. I know several of my teacher friends are implementing this in their classrooms, but I want to give credit where credit is due. If you are the originator of this idea, or know who is, and happen to be reading this. My props to you! This idea is fantastic. I love it and give you all of the credit for it! I can take none whatsoever.

That being said, I of course took it and ran with the idea, putting my own spin on it as I always do with anything I see. I would hope that's the mark of a good, creative teacher... I would hope...

Anyhow, here's what a VIP means in my classroom and how I use it for positive motivation.

Right away this school year, I knew I would need a large handful of tricks and tools to implement to keep up with my new students. In my class of 18, twelve are boys. TWELVE! That's a LOT of eight-year-old boy energy. So, when I first saw this VIP idea last school year, I didn't think much of it because I had a well-behaved class of 15, with 13 of them girls. It didn't seem necessary. But this year, boy did it EVER!

So, I finally decided to jump into it when I saw some cool school supplies on clearance at Target one day. There was also this really cool shower caddy that was on clearance for about $4 so I picked up (thinking there was no way I could fill it!) and set out shopping.

You see, the premise for the VIP Student acknowledgement is that these students display above and beyond role model behavior. They are students who really don't need classroom management, because they are responsible, well-behaved, on task, respectful, everything a model student exemplifies. It doesn't mean they are the smartest, brightest, coolest, most popular, prettiest, whatever. It is none of those things. It is about their HEART, in my eyes.

So, after I bought A BUNCH of awesome goodies (more about those in a bit) I thought about what I expected of my VIP students. The next day at school, I asked my students what it meant to them when they heard "VIP" and then asked, "what should that look like in our classroom?"

I was blown away by their responses.

These all came from them. I had no part of it - I just wrote them down. They NAILED it!

I made these signs and badges. Every day, I select 2 student VIPs, and that day they wear these badges and display the signs on their desks. (the little plastic display signs are from Michaels)

I don't have room in my for a special VIP table, so instead the VIPs can choose to sit back with me and the tub of supplies at my table. (I don't have a teacher desk - I sit at our kidney table).

If you like the signs I use, you can download them HERE AS A FREEBIE!

I choose two VIPs almost every day, but sometimes, there aren't any. I don't force the VIP issue. I really make sure my students EARN it. Sometimes, I make notes about who should be VIP (and have even had a wait list before!) but other times, I just go off of memory. Plus, as with every class, I have a handful of "go-to" students who are always on task and reliable.

What I love most about this program is that it really DOES motivate students. I have a boy who comes in EVERY morning when he unpacks and looks to see who are the VIPs. He is highly motivated to earn it, and though he has only twice so far this year, I have seen a notable change in his overall behavior! How fantastic! I also love that I can acknowledge and reward the students who are always strong, positive role models. They earn a positive reward, rather than my giving a negative consequence to the rest of the class. This class has been together for many years (they are the only class in the grade) so they have had their share of challenges over the years. What has also been great about having VIPs, is that parents have also told me they appreciate that students are being recognized in a positive manner, rather than negatively.

So, here are all of the goodies, which I add to frequently!

Glitter glue, glitter markers, neon markers, metallic markers, metallic crayons, glitter crayons, special highlighters, giant highlighters from Target, a fun tape dispenser, Mr. Sketch scented markers, color changing markers (from Dollar Tree), scented erasers, fun-edged craft scissors, and twistable colored pencils.

I will say that it was a bit of an investment, but SO worth it. I keep my eyes open when I am out and about, especially looking in clearance sections. I was able to get the Mr. Sketch markers on clearance at Office Max after the back to school season.

The first day I brought this in, the class was so excited about using them. They were practically DROOLING over it! Their affinity for school supplies rivals my own.. I love it!

Just the other day, I asked them to share with me how it feels to them when they are VIP and why they like being the VIP for the day. Most of the responses I received were something along the lines of  "because it is awesome!" and "I get to use cool supplies!" or "I like using smelly markers." But a few of them touched me and completely blew me away. The impact of the VIP bin and a badge was more than I had ever expected.

This one got to me instantly. As soon as I read it, my heart broke. What must this little boy be feeling when he ISN'T VIP?? I am so glad he shared this, and that I can provide a way for him to feel important in the classroom. I want my students to know that they are special. To know they have value. They were created on and for a purpose, and in my classroom that means something. They are a VIP in God's eyes and I will not deny that either!

They are oh, so special. I want for them to feel special. To know that they are noticed. They are working hard. They are doing well. That I am proud of them and that I see it. I think sometimes it is so easy to focus on the negative behaviors and punishments in the classroom. I say that because I have been and continue to be guilty of it sometimes. I am by no means perfect. But, I am always reflecting and cognizant of where I place my attention. Some negative behaviors warrant addressing, some don't. I prefer to focus on the POSITIVE things my students are doing. The POSITIVE ways they are treating one another and honoring God with their actions, work, and speech every day. It's a choice I can make in response to the choices they make.

I look at it most simply as this: how will they remember feeling in third grade? If they remember that they felt special, I'll feel as though I was successful. If they don't feel as though they were special to me, I'll have failed. Simple as that.

I really loved reading this one too. I was glad this little boy realized that in our classroom, being VIP is EARNED, not given.

About a month ago, I caught two of my sweet girls passing notes to each other. As I read it, it say "student A and student B are so lucky!" (I won't use their names) and she meant they were lucky because they were chosen to be VIPs that day. Though I needed to punish and discuss with them the note passing, I instead focused on the "lucky" part of the note. It bothered me. That word always does. Lucky. I don't like it. It's a major pet peeve of mine... and I will save you from that rant. That's all you really need to know so I'll move on to the rest of the story.... What bothered me was that she didn't see that those two students had EARNED being VIP that day with their hard work the day before. She missed it completely. So, we stopped and talked about it as a class. We reviewed the anchor chart we had made about being VIP, and how it isn't "lucky" to be able to do those things. It comes from discipline and hard work. We are not jealous of those who are VIPs, we are excited for and encourage them because they earned it.

I think it goes along well with the feeling special from above. I certainly don't want them to feel "better than" someone else. I don't allow bragging or boasting in anyway either. But I hope that it instills within themselves some small amount of pride and confidence that they are doing well, that they are loved, that they are special.

Because they are.