Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Love a Good Giveaway!!!

I am really wanting to do more math journaling this year and I just found a great blog called Tales From A Traveling Teacher that is doing a giveaway of her math journal bundles. Woohoo!!!

If you like math journals and a good giveaway, check it out!!

Ms. Hughes

p.s. I realized after posting this that the giveaway was already over! Duh! But...Kelli from Tales From a Traveling Teacher sent me a pack to try out anyway. How wonderful of her! Thanks, Kelli!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taming The Wild with Blog Hoppin'

So today is Day 4 of Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin' and the topic today is all about Taming the Wild.

Otherwise known as how a teacher manages to make 24 little squirming bodies sit still, listen and pay attention long enough to teach anything!

There are so many different behaviour management systems out there. Over my career I have probably tried all of them at one time or another.


Names on the board.


Moving names up or down on a chart.

You name it. I have probably tried it.

What do all of these systems tend to have in common?

Extrinsic motivation (or, as some teachers like to call it, bribery!) Not that there is anything inherently wrong in extrinsic motivation (no matter how many specialists try to convince us that intrinsic is best). Show me one grown up who has not done something to get a reward later or who hasn't told themselves that they deserve a reward for doing something difficult. Worked out to be able to eat that pizza. Had a glass of wine to celebrate the end of a bad day. Bought a present to pick themselves up. You get the idea. We all do it.

Why? Because it works! But I do find that these type of systems tend to have a very short life span. I have seen these types of systems be very successful with certain students (or classes) for short periods of time but never over the long term. AND these types of systems take up A LOT of teacher time to make them work. Maybe they only work in the short term because I get so gosh darn tired of doing the system!

So while I do use these on a short term basis every once in awhile, the traditional behaviour management really isn't my "go to" way of dealing with managing behaviour in the classroom.

So, what do I use most of the time?

Get ready because it is going to blow your mind!

Time, patience and love.

Yep. That's it.

First, I make sure to be aware of  how I am feeling. After 19 years in the classroom I am well aware that I set the tone. If I am stressed out, grumpy, sick, etc. then poor behaviour inevitably follows. I can bet on it. Every. single. time. It is my job to model how I want them to behave. Even when it is really hard to do!!!!

Second, I teach the class calming strategies to get their bodies and minds ready to learn. I bought the book  Conscious Discipline. a number of years ago and have been slowly using more and more of it in my teaching. I got the different calming strategies from it. There is an AWESOME blog called Heather's Heart where the teacher uses tons of Conscious Discipline principles. I want to be Heather when I grow up!

Combined with the Conscious Discipline program, I use  the A.LE.R.T. program to help students learn expectations. I like the simple language and being able to just tell kids that they need to be in Green Zone.

I create an area in my room each year that is the Quiet Zone or Safe Place. Here I keep some cuddle buddies (stuffed animals), books, etc. This year I am adding a wave bottle and some lotion. Not all kids like to use this area. Some just find a quiet spot (like one of our community bean bags) when they need one.

So how does it work?

Well, I spend tons and tons of time explaining, demonstrating and practicing positive behaviour choices in the classroom. Then, after they have all learned the expectations inside and out I start giving them three chances to correct poor behaviour choices (I use a silent signal of raising my fingers). If they get to strike three, they are asked to leave  the group and come back to the group when they are calm and ready to learn. What I am aiming for is self regulation. And most kids don't end up needing to leave the group. They just need a reminder (or two!!) about making better choices.

That's it.

Sound simple? Well, it kind of is.

It is all about the front loading and teaching. The time spent in the beginning of the year teaching the calming strategies and behaviour expectations is worth its weight in gold, and silver, and diamonds, and...!

I find that most students want to behave. They want to learn and make good choices. But sometimes they have a bad day. Sometimes I have a bad day, too. That's life. So, no Time Outs. Just time to calm themselves and get ready for learning. And, yes, I have been known to tell the class I need to get back to Green Zone, walk to the Safe Place, do some deep breathing or another calming strategy and then come back to teach again. I am a firm believer in practicing what I preach!

Now wait! I know what you are going to say next!

What about THOSE kids? You know, the ones who NEVER seem to follow the rules, who seem to be always disruptive and who seem to be in our class for the sole purpose of driving the teacher CRAZY?!?!

I know that we all have them. Every year there are one or two tough cases that seem to require an extraordinary amount of teacher time (and too often that is negative teacher time!)

I have a secret weapon for these tough cases.

Are you ready?

DOUBLE THE LOVE!!! Yep, good old fashioned, love and lots of it!!!!!

I had a student like this last year. There were days when it felt like he was going to drive me crazy!!!!! Some days it was all I could do to maintain my sanity. I had to keep reminding myself that none of his behaviour choices had anything to do with me. They had to do with him. His fears, his needs, his insecurities. (This is NOT easy to do some days!!!!)

And so I gave him love. And lots of it!  One of the tricks I used was to give him a big hug every time I felt like saying his name in anger or frustration. There was one day when I think I hugged him about 40 times in a 5 hour period!!!! By the end of the year, we had built up a bond. He no longer made poor behaviour choices (most of the time) and his learning was coming along (now that his behaviour didn't interfere with it!). On the last day of classes, he gave me a hug that practically cracked a rib! The sweet feeling of success!!!!

So, there you go. My management plan in a very long nutshell!

Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teachin' and Blog Hoppin'

Day 3 of the Linky Party over at Blog Hoppin'. Today is all about organizing for teaching. That is a REALLY big topic!!!! I'm going to stick to one aspect of it: keeping student data organized.

I would love to be able to show loads of photos but, as I mentioned yesterday, I haven't been able to get into my classroom much. I've only actually had one day in the space and that was spent putting furniture in place.

Luckily for me, there are other teachers out there in Pinterestland that use the same organization techniques that I do! So, I thought I would just describe a few things that I do to make keeping data organized in my teaching life easier and, where possible, show you a picture from someone else who does the same thing.

So, here goes!!!!! 

1. Labels - I love labels! Last year with the move to the new school and all the chaos going on I really didn't make use of this organizational tool. Basically, what I try to do is keep track of observations etc on labels which I can then just stick into my binder where I keep all the students data. Sort of like this (but without the really pretty clipboard!):

use address labels, clipboard, and large index cards. Write your notes on the address labels as you walk around and observe. Later, stick them onto the child's index card. Quick and easy! Then, during parent/teacher conferences, just pull out the note card and share your observations.
from Spotted in First Grade

2. Scrapbooks - I keep a scrapbook for every student. I get them through my school. They are ordered from Grand & Toy. I keep monthly writing samples, copies of their report cards, goal setting conference forms, awards, drawings, photos, graphs to show progress, etc. I pull these out every time I meet with parents. I like them because they are a useful tool for data collection and make a nice keepsake at the end of the year.
3. Student Data Binder - this is pretty basic and I use the same one from year to year. Since so much of their info is kept in the scrapbooks, all I really keep in here are the actual test results (that I put on the graphs in their scrapbooks) and my labels with observations written on them. Also, any communication with parents is noted in this binder. I sewed the cover to my binder so that it looks different from a regular binder. This helps me not to lose it when it gets piled under a bunch of papers!!!!
Those are probably the top 3 things I do to help me stay organized and on top of student data. I am hoping that I can go a bit more digital this school year so these organization methods may shift a little bit!
There are, of course, tons of other things I do to stay organized! I could go on and on and on...you get the idea! I may do another post once I've had a chance to actually set up my classroom so that you can see what I am talking about.
Until then, hop on over to Blog Hoppin' to check out all the other great organization ideas in their linky party!
Ms. Hughes

WWR Aug 14

from Momastery

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another day of blog hoppin'!!!!


Teacher Week: Classroom Digs

So, I am linking up with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week '13. Today is the day to share what my classroom looks like. Well, I haven't really had much time in there yet so it is still in a state of chaos but I'm going to hope you take pity on my mess!

If you are new to my blog, you may not know about how my school functions. Over the last few years, the school district has been building us a new school that meets seismic codes here in B.C. The new school has been built on a community model rather than on the traditional classroom model.

What does this mean for me?

Well, for starters, it means I don't have a classroom of my own.

At least, not in the traditional sense. No more one room/one teacher.

Instead, what we have are a group of different sized rooms (called Learning Studios) that open out onto a common area (called the Community Commons). We then have a teacher's office where we keep all of our professional resources etc.

No more teacher desk, no more "owning" a room.

The idea is that we have a "home base" in each studio but that the teachers and students use all of the community space as much as possible.

It is different, I'll admit. And, as we only moved in last October, it has taken (and continues to take) a lot of time and effort to figure out how to teach in this new model.

I spent last year using the green studio as my home base (also called the DaVinci because it has sinks and space for both science and art) but I switched studios in June with one of my team teachers.

So, now I am in the purple studio. I spent a couple hours in there yesterday (first time I was able to get in this summer) and took a few shots. Had wanted to work more in there today but it was being cleaned so I worked on my professional space in the teacher's office

Here is what my studio looks like right now:

The view from my door looking towards the Smartboard/Group Meeting area. The open door you see on the far wall opens onto a patio that my students can use to work, garden etc. It is so great having outdoor space right beside my studio!

A closer look at the Smartboard/Group Meeting area. I don't have a carpet (I've asked for one but who knows when, or if, I'll ever get it?) I climbed up on the ladder yesterday to do my bulletin boards. All the same - turquoise with black borders. My favourite!!!!!
This (very messy!) table is my Teaching Table where I meet with small groups. The cupboard behind with the open door is the one space where I can keep personal items within the studio. Beside the cupboard there is another board covered in turquoise paper. This has a table in front of it and will eventually be home to my Writing Centre.
This is the view looking back from the patio door towards the entry. The whiteboards at the back will eventually house my word wall. Under the boards are the student cubbies. I am so glad that they pull down so I can hide the inevitable clutter caused by 24 young children storing their assorted stuff!

When you first enter our school from the playground or west side, you come in to a large School Commons (one of two) and you see our community immediately. 

This is our community behind the large glass accordion doors. You can see our community commons. Right now all the furniture is on the outside of the doors because they were just waxing the floors.
The Purple Studio is in the corner where the door is open. To the left is the door and open garage door (we can open and close this as needed to create more or less privacy) of the Orange Studio. The dark door is the entrance to a small room where teachers can work 1-1 or with small groups. The door on the far right is the entrance to our teacher's space where we keep all of our professional items and have our desks.

And here is the office space...
This is a broader view of the teacher's office. We have a table in the middle to meet at and personal spaces around the walls. Mine is in the corner where the pink chair is sitting.
Some more close ups of my office space.

And, there you have it...my studio and office spaces as they looked today. I'll be posting photos of the room as I get it done. School doesn't start for me until September 3.
So, stay tuned!
Ms. Hughes



Monday, August 12, 2013

Come Blog Hoppin' with me!!!!


It's Teacher Week '13 and I am joining up with the linky party at Blog Hoppin' and am going to try (really try!) to participate every day this week!

I am determined to do a better job this school year with my blogging.
Fingers crossed!

Today's topic is to share 10 things about me (I am guessing that they should be 10 NEW things but I'm not sure...)

So...here goes....

1. I am starting my 20th year of teaching (Crikey!)
3 of those were as an Educator On Call, also known as an EOC, (previously known as a substitute teacher before my district decided to go all acronymie on us!) Seven years were in Kindergarten, one in grade 2, and the last eight mostly in grade 1 with a year of K/1 and another of 1/2. This coming year I will most likely be teaching a straight grade 1 or a combination 1/2. Time will tell!

2. I get grumpy if I don't exercise. It has taken me many years to figure this out but I have finally accepted it. The problem being that I don't always want to exercise even though I know I'll feel so much better after!!!!

3. I have been with my husband for 20 years - married for 17. We have a 17 year old daughter. And, yes, I was pregnant when we got married! What most people don't realize is that we planned the pregnancy but hadn't planned to get married. Glad we did though!

4. I don't eat wheat or many sweets. I do have a sweet tooth though. My favourite are salted caramels. Yummmmm....

5. My family has moved A LOT. I lived in the same house growing up (my mother has now lived there for 47 years!!!) but, since moving out at the age of 23, I have lived in 14 places. All in the same city!!!! I know it sounds cray-zee (and it kind of is) but we are done moving (honestly, I mean it!) I've even started decorating which I've never really done before.

6. I say "Okiedokie Fenokies" a lot in class. It is a play on the name of the Okefenokee Swamp, which is a swamp in Southern Georgia near to where my dad grew up. Once, when I was pretty young, my Grandaddy took us out on the swamp with the gators and, let's just say that it left an impression!

7. I read. A LOT! A novel every couple of days kind of reading. But...I rarely read the "Oprah" book club kind of novels. When I read I want to relax and not think too much! I just go to the library and browse the shelves, pulling what looks interesting and give it a read!

8. I don't like to cook but I do all the cooking in our house. I would give over the rights to my hubby but he tends to make weird concoctions sans recipes like Blueberry Chicken. Trust me...it wasn't pretty! Sigh...

9. I am a total homebody. Give me a cup of  tea, a cozy bed and a good book and I am happy as can be!

10. I have different play lists for all different situations. The workout - kick me in the ass - playlist, the walking - taking it slow and easy - playlist, the faith - for when I am feeling in need of spiritual healing - playlist, you name it...and I probably have a playlist for it. Or could easily make one!

So...there you go! Not sure how fun those facts are but that's what I came up with. Now, go join the linky party!

Ms. Hughes

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Well, better late than never, I suppose! Here is what is currently happening in my life at 9:25 on the evening of August 10th.

Oops! Just  noticed a typo but am too tired to bother redoing the entire thing! Can you find it?

See? Every mistake is just an opportunity to learn something!!!

Linking up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade. Go over to check it out and see what everyone else is currently up to these days!

Ms. Hughes

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WWR Aug 7

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
from ????
I pinned this on my Pinterest board awhile back but the link no longer exists.
If you know who should be getting credit, please let me know!