MINTED Valentine's Day Cards for Teachers ($250 GIVEAWAY!)

I am super excited.  I teamed up with, which is the most ADORABLE stationary around.  Their product is extremely high quality and is my favorite company to get printed stationary.  They have Christmas cards, announcements, invitations...basically anything you need printed, they have it.  

I want to share with you their new classroom and kids Valentine's Day cards.  This line is perfect for kids to give to their friends in the classroom or for a teacher to give to the students!  Look at the adorable Valentine's Day cards that I chose to give my kids!

I picked this card from their store but what is amazing is that when you find a card you like, you can modify it picking the colors, font, and text!

I purchased some bubbles, pencils, puffy hearts, and conversation heart candies from Target to add to a goodie bag for each student.  The cards I chose are gray, so I am going to use a sliver Sharpie to write their names.

I put all of their Valentine's treats into a little goodie bag to go with their Minted Valentine's Day card!

Minted has decided give away a $250.00 gift card in store credit to one of my amazing followers!  You can use the credit to shop your heart out on :) 
The giveaway will be live for one week.  Click on the picture below to enter! 

Minted is also generously giving all of you FREE stickers if you purchase a set of classroom Valentines (with a purchase of $20 or more).  Use the code: CLASSROOM, and the offer expires January 31, 2016.


Guest Blogger: Using Hand Signals in the Classroom

Hi!  I am Maria from Everyone Deserves to Learn!  I am going to share with you some "checking for understanding ideas!"

Did you get that?

Do you understand?

Easy peasy, right?

Raise your hand if you've ever said that to your students.  {Raising hand wildly over here!} I'm also guilty of calling on the same 3 kids over and over again.  It's so hard to change, especially when you've been saying the same things for years!  I have been trying a few different ways to break those bad habits, and I hope some of them can work for you!

Checking for understanding is something we are constantly doing before, during, and after lessons.  It can tell us which students are on the right track, which are the wrong track, and which kids are on Platform 9 and 3/4.   But when does checking for understanding become a tool we can actually use to drive instruction?

Enter the Marzano Scale.  I started using this on the first day of school this year, and am so glad I did.

After I've conducted direct instruction and before we move on to independent practice, I stop and say, "Show me how you understand."  Sometimes I'll use it as a quick pre-assessment as well.  My students will then raise anywhere from 1 to 4 (sometimes we get silly and raise 10) fingers to show their understanding.  From there, I can assign partners or groups based on what I've seen.  This strategy has worked out well for both my high and low proficient students; the physical response lessens any speaking anxiety they have.  

The next strategy works really well for my low proficient ELL's, and would work for any student who is on the shy side.

When I ask a question to the whole group, I wait to see my student give me a thumbs up on the table before calling on him.  

Earth shattering? No.  Easy? Not always, especially when we are holding a group discussion.  Effective?  Absolutely!  Waiting for that thumbs up avoids unnecessary speaking anxiety for my student, and saves the rest of the class from a overly long wait time. It's not a very visible signal, and it's just between the two of us.  He can lay his fist on the table with his thumb to the side, or he can hold his thumb up (like in the game Seven-Up).  

None of my students have asked about it , but if they did, I would simply tell them that's how I know their friend is ready to answer.

I use lots of hand signals on my part as well. They help a lot when I have very new newcomers at school who are unfamiliar with classroom rules or spoken directions.  
Finger to ear- listen
Finger from mouth - speak/tell me
Brush two fingers on one hand against two fingers on the other - Stop/Don't do that
Hand from chest in a circle- everyone

Do you use any hand signals in your classroom? Share in the comments!


MLK Primary Ideas

MLK Day is such a great opportunity to teach our young students about treating people that are different from us with respect and love.  I purchased these skin color crayons from Lakeshore and thought they would be the perfect visual for explaining to the students what Martin Luther King's dream was.  I separated the light and dark colors and said a long time ago kids could only play with kids that had their same skin color.  Then I mixed all the crayons together and said that MLK had a dream that everyone could play together no matter what color their skin was.   It was a great introduction to our study of MLK! 

I shared a couple of books with the students highlighting MLK's life:
I am Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I found a cute video on YouTube about MLK from the Kid President and the students loved watching it!

We made this Martin Luther King, Jr. flip craft!  The students wrote about MLK and then colored his picture.

We completed this writing activity in our writing groups.  Some of the students I did a directed writing, and the others wrote their own response.  This is an example of our directed writing.

I don't have any bulletin board space available so I hung their MLK craft on my cupboard doors!  I printed out "I have a dream" using KG Fonts.  I just printed each letter on one sheet of paper, cut them out, and taped them to the doors!

Find the MLK Craftivity in my Tpt Store!

Presidents' Day Craftivity

February is a great time to teach about the United States of America and celebrate some of our great leaders.  This Presidents' Day Craftivity highlights two of our presidents.  President Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are two engaging presidents to teach about around Presidents' Day.  

The students color the desired president and then write about him.  They color the front page and write on the second page, creating a flip craft!  

At the top of the writing paper there is a spot to glue the coloring sheet to it!  The students can then flip up their coloring page and see their sentences.  I included two different styles of writing paper, one for primary grads and one for upper elementary students.

I really like this quick craft because there is minimal prep.  I don't have to take time to trace multiple pieces for the students to complete a craft.  This coloring portion can be done during centers or for students that finish their work quickly!

Pick up a copy here!


Guest Blogger: Teaching ESL Students

Hello my name is Michelle and I blog at Teaching Eternity.  I am an ESL teacher in Upstate New York.  This September I started my 5th year teaching Kindergarten through 6th grade English Language Learners.  I am so happy to be a guest blogger for Michelle today!

I am often asked about the different acronyms that ESL teachers use seemingly interchangeably.  So really quickly here is the alphabet soup of ESL:

The Importance of the Native Language

If there is one thing I want you to remember from my blog post it's this...

Ok now before you decide I've lost my marbles (because this seems counter-intuitive) let me explain my reasoning...
1.) It is better for your students to hear fluent language that is not English, than for them to hear imperfect, broken English. Think of it this way - consider the English proficiency of your students' parents... is that the English you'd like your students to be learning?
2.) When students learn academic concepts in their native language they will more easily learn that topic in the second language.
3.) Once students understand underlying literacy concepts in their native language, these skills can be used to learn in a second language

It is my experience that students who are truly bilingual (they are proficient in both the native language and English) do better academically.  They test out of ESL earlier and continue to do better in school than other students who are not fluent in the native language.


BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
This is the social language that we all learn first and for our ELLs it can be learned within 1-2 years.  Sometimes these language skills can give the impression of greater English proficiency than actually exists.  

CALP stands for Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency
This is why ELLs need to receive services from an ESL teacher.  This develops second and can take 5 to 7 years to develop.  Without Native Language Proficiency it can take 7-10 years to develop these language skills.  (Going back to my point about valuing the native language)

In the ESL world we think of BICS and CALP as an ice berg!

Strategies for working with English Language Learners

Predictable Routines and Signals

Creating routine in your classroom will reduce the anxiety of your ELLs.  
Set up your room -  designate certain areas for certain activities (group work, play, independent work etc) create clear signs and graphics to help the students know what is expected in each area
Contextualize directions by modeling them.
Use visual direction cards (my favorites are from Ashley Hughes - HERE and HERE)

Preview and Review the Lesson

  1. plan and gather materials: plan your lesson, identify key concepts and vocabulary (choose only the most important vocabulary), gather visuals (Google images is your friend) or realia (real things!)
  2. introduce key vocabulary and concepts: explicitly teach the key vocabulary prior to teaching the lesson
  3. teach the lesson: refer to the support materials already introduced
  4. Review vocabulary and concepts
  5. Provide additional practice: allow the students to use the support materials after the lesson

Example: If you are teaching a lesson about winter,  show pictures of snow and icicles, bring in hats, mittens, gloves, scarves etc.  Teach these items explicitly - while most students know what they are, they may not have the vocabulary in English.  After the lesson give them a chance to pretend play with the winter clothes.

Total Physical Response

Identify vocabulary that can be taught with motion

feelings - "show me a __________ face"
directions - "point up/down"
body parts - "touch your ____________ "
descriptive words - big (wide arms) little (close hands)
movements/actions - act out  

One of my favorites is when I am teaching about winter clothing and we are discussing the difference between gloves and mittens we open and close our hands to show the difference, and we say the words each time!

Another of my favorites is teaching verb tenses
Pointing behind us we say "past, yesterday"
Pointing right in front of us we say "present, today"
Pointing ahead of us we say "future, tomorrow"
(obviously those aren't exact descriptions for verb tenses, but the kids get the idea!)

Asking Questions
A few things to keep in mind...

Give the students plenty of wait-time
Let the students know they are expected to answer
Allow them to answer with pointing and gestures (thumbs up or down, hold up 1...2...3 fingers etc.)
Allow alternate methods of answering (pointing to a picture, drawing a picture etc)
Make answering questions a privilege
Allow them to rehearse an answer with a partner first ("turn and tell your partner...")

I'd like to share just one more thing:

Do you work with English Language Learners?  What have you learned about working with them?

Please come to visit me on my own blog and see what I'm doing in my classroom!
(and other ramblings!)

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