Guest Blogger: How to Have Successful and Productive Team Meetings

Hello!  My name is Nicole Chavanne and I blog over at Learning Lab.  I am a special education teacher that floats between grades 4-6 each year.  I co-teach with a general education teacher and work with several paraprofessionals in our classroom.  I am so excited that Michelle opened her blog so I can share some ideas with all of you!  

How many of you have weekly meetings with your team?  I know it is best practice, but it is soooo hard to stick to a consistent schedule, especially when my inclusion team involves 3 general education teachers, 4 paraprofessionals, and myself.  And that is not even including the special area folks and related services providers.  

When you have several adults working with the same group of students, it is vital for everybody to be on the same page.  It is especially important to keep the paraprofessionals in the classroom up to speed on student progress and your expectations for continued growth, both academically and behaviorally.  

Over the years, I have learned a few things about successful and, more importantly, productive team meetings.  It's not always easy to do, but it is well worth it.  The entire team will benefit and, most importantly, so will the students.  

Consistency Matters
Have an Agenda
Take Notes
Be Respectful
Bring Treats
Working with a team can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences.  Keeping up with consistent team meetings will make the rewards even greater!

The first thing, is to schedule consistent meetings.  Pick a day.  Pick a time.  Stick to it.  It doesn't matter if somebody is out.  Keep the meeting, as scheduled.  Once you cancel or postpone one meeting, it makes it easier to do it over and over again. 

I suggest you pick one of the middle days so you avoid those Monday and Friday holidays.  Of course, sometimes things happen that would prevent you meeting as a team, such as a faculty meeting.  It is important to try your best to meet each week.
Nobody likes attending meetings with no purpose.  Have a list of things to discuss ready prior to the meeting beginning.  One thing I have in place with my team is a "Hold That Thought" board where we can all leave post-its in a location that is hidden from the classroom view.  

This is so helpful because we can collect things we need to discuss over the course of the week.  Of course, it is important that your team is comfortable bringing up vital topics immediately, if needed.  

You can read more about the way I use my "Hold That Thought" board on my blog.
Have somebody take minutes of your meetings and make copies for each member of your team.  This serves a couple of purposes.  First, you will always have a record of discussions that were had and solutions that were found.  Second, those that may have not been able to attend will know what was discussed.

You can make extra copies for those special area folks, related services providers, and even your principal to keep them in the loop.  Who knows?  Maybe they'll want to attend your next team meeting!
This should be a given but sometimes team meetings can become a little heated.  It is important that all members of your team feel important and listened to.  When bringing up a minor issue, "we" language is helpful.  For example, instead of saying "you need to ____ more" you can say "we need to ____ more."  Using "we language makes conversations less threatening.  
In my always hungry opinion, this is the most important thing!  If you have food, people will come.  If you have especially tasty treats, people that were not even invited will try showing up!  In all honesty, having food on the table puts people at ease and makes team meetings seem less formal and more conversational.  Bagels and cream cheese are my favorite treats to bring for morning team meetings.  You can take turns being the one in charge of treats to ease the cost.  

Thanksgiving Giveaway!

In light of the holiday season some of my blogger friends and I are hosting a $200 giveaway to either Target OR Teachers Pay Teachers (the winner gets to pick)!  There are SO many things to be thankful for, but in the world of teaching and blogging I am so thankful for my friends, colleagues, and fellow bloggers!  Friendships are really important to me and life wouldn't be as joyful without the wonderful people in my life!  

Some of these amazing ladies and I want to show our gratitude by hosting a giveaway for some lucky teacher (or not!) to win $200 to EITHER Target or TpT!

 Please enter to win below...good luck!

Guest Blogger: Phonics Instruction in Kinder

Hi there! I'm Amanda and you can find me over at Mrs. Richardson's Class.  I am so excited to be a guest blogger for Michelle today! She is absolutely precious and I have always enjoyed reading her blog!
Mrs. Richardson's Class Blog Button

A little bit about me...I taught kindergarten and 1st grade for 6 years and now I stay home with my little guy as we wait for our little girl to come home that we are adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I love, love, love, creating and crafting lessons so I continue to do that in the meantime!

 Today I wanted to share a little bit about phonics instruction in the kindergarten classroom.

 Teaching phonics has not always been a strength of mine.  As a matter of fact, my first 3 years of teaching, my phonics instruction was rarely explicit and direct.  There was never a rhyme or reason to the sequence, either.  I taught phonics as they came up during our shared reading and guided reading time and through whole group word work with activities such as this.  I had a more whole language and literature based approach to teaching phonics.  This is not WRONG, but what made it wrong for me is that I was not explicit and direct in my instruction. This worked for some, but not all. Instruction consisted of mainly THIS.  Making words with Words Their Way.

Note: I still LOVE this activity and we will continue to practice this throughout the year.  This practice has definitely stayed, but MORE was added! 
Several years ago, when I moved back to first grade, I had a class that really struggled with letter identification and letter sounds.  That year, after several months of teaching phonics with a whole language approach, I sought out help.  I knew I had to reevaluate how I taught phonics. It was then that I began teaching phonics with a more direct and explicit approach.  I immediately saw improvement in their use and understanding of the alphabetic principal. As I began my classes for my masters degree I learned more about reading instruction and the 5 Essential Elements, I discovered this.

         How did I miss this in college???

I also realized this.

It hit me hard. I had not been giving phonics enough attention in my teaching day. So I made some BIG changes and work hard on explicit and direct phonics instruction. Lots of sorting by beginning sounds (which is also a phonemic awareness skill)...

Brainstorming of words we know that begin with the specific letter of instruction and making anchor charts...

Videos... Some of our favorite letter videos are Nellie and Ned on YouTube.  I like that they introduce the letter with a motion.  We refer to that motion throughout the week.

...and LOTS of games on our interactive whiteboard! I continue to reinforce phonics through word work instruction during guided reading time.  Nothing will ever replace the 1-on-1 help that I can provide to a child during guided reading time. I'm definitely not an expert and I still have a lot of growing and learning to do.  I would love to hear and read about your ideas and methods for phonics instruction that you use in your classroom!

  mrs richardsons class signature

Bundle of Joy

Our little man is finally here!  Today he is actually two months old!  I tell you, those two months flew by and he has grown so much.  I want to share some newborn photos that my friend Melissa Vossler took when Harrison was one week old.
This is the photo we used for his birth announcement, I think it is my FAVORITE by far!  Harrison surprised us and came 2.5 weeks early and measured in at 5 lbs. 14 oz. 18 inches!  I will save you the details of the labor story, but he arrived after 17 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing.  

After the stressful pregnancy, I still can't believe our little one is actually here.  I am going to be completely honest...  The first month of learning to be a mom, recovering from labor, learning how to breast feed was the most challenging thing I have done.  I wanted to punch anyone in the face that would tell me to "soak it up, it goes fast" because I was barely hanging on for dear life.  The lack of sleep is what made everything so difficult.  One night not sleeping is bearable, but when you are on the 4th week, it's hard to keep sane AND enjoy your little one.  Now that we are on month two, I can look back and say, "I wish I would have soaked it up, it went by so fast!" haha!

Due to several reasons I went back to work at 6 weeks.  (I know....)  At week 5 I was barely confident enough to take Harry to Target alone, and at the 6th week I was supposed to be ok with leaving him and working full time?  But I tell you, that one week made a HUGE difference and I was ready.  One thing I have learned in my short 2 months of being a mom is that "mom guilt" haunts you in everything you do.  

After being on bedrest, summer break, and maternity leave I really missed teaching.  But wasn't I supposed to want to just stay home with my baby all day, because thats what being a "good mom" is? I really struggled with being scared AND excited to go back to work.  I felt guilty for wanting to be back in the classroom.  

It's been 2 weeks and I am really happy.  I love my job and I love coming home to my baby.  I know everyone is different, some people love staying home and some people love working.  So whatever option you choose or have to do, don't feel guilty!   I don't know what the future holds as far as me working vs. staying home, but right now we are really enjoying my decision to be at work.
Here are some pictures of Harry's nursery.  One of my friends, Shannon, helped me decorate and hunt down some of the adorable pieces!  Our theme is "little man, classic, and modern." (I don't know if that's a style...)

Here is where we found all of the pieces:
crib and metal storage bins- Walmart
mobile and shelf- Restoration Hardware
dino head (my husband found this bad boy) and prints- Etsy
rocker and side table- Target
curtains- Anthropologie
self accessories- TJ Maxx, Easy, and the car my Husband's grandpa made!
"You make me happy when skies are gray" painting- Cara Carroll