Saturday, September 3, 2016

Morning Messages & Their Impact

As everyone is in the middle of their new school year, procedures and routines are in full swing. I want to bring you something that I treasure and believe is one of the most important parts of my classroom's day. Morning Messages.

I know many people use morning messages, but if you don't, or you just need new ideas as to why you should keep using them, you have found the right place! Morning messages are just what they say they are, messages that are put up in the morning as the students come into the classroom. People do morning messages in many different forms, some use chart paper, some use their chalk or white board, and some use their computer. I am one who uses their computer (well my promethean board). I have compiled a list of the amazing impacts morning messages can have on a classroom.

Stops the Repeating Questions

Repeating the answer to the same question a hundred times a day could go down as one of my biggest pet peeves as a teacher. Morning messages can be a solution to help minimize the number of questions you have throughout the day! On your morning message you can give the kids the daily schedule of whats going to happen in your classroom. They become informed and ready to face the day. It is also perfect for those days where you have  a convocation, picture day, or you have a two-hour delay and the schedule is weird. I have found that including that information in the morning message prepare the kids for the day (especially those friends who are schedule oriented), whether is be a normal or wonky day.

Encouraging Words 

One of my favorite parts of writing a morning message every day is including an inspirational quote. If you are anything like me, you love quotes. I am pretty sure this is the reason some kids leave my class loving quotes because I give them a new one to think about everyday! You can get your quotes from anywhere, but I have a few favorite sources. First one is 365 Days of Wonder, it is a book of Mr. Browne's precepts (if you have read Wonder you know who this is). It is a book full of 365 quotes, some famous, and some by kids. Another book is the Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome it also has some great quotes, and who doesn't love the Kid President?

I also have a large Google Doc that I made this summer of quotes from my notebooks, planners, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. On my Google Doc, I can go easily copy the quote, then paste it in my message. My trick is once you have copied the quote, change the font color in Google and you will never repeat or lose you spot in the list. Why not start your students' day out with a little inspiration?

Simple & Quick

As I said previously and what you can gather from the pictures, I type my messages and project them on my Promethean board. That being said, they are super quick and super easy to type up every morning. When I feel like I am rushed and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, a morning message will always be written because they take that little time to do! I know as teachers we have very full plates that are constantly being added to daily, but this is one that doesn't even take up a tiny part of the plate. My morning messages are all typed on Keynote (Apple's version of PowerPoint), and I use the same template everyday, so I just type what I want to say and its done!

Celebrate Your Students

Morning messages are a wonderful outlet to celebrate the successes of your students. It could have been something they did that was amazing yesterday, they could have won a game/activity, or helped out a friend. Nothing is better than seeing their faces when their names on up on the morning message!
 Another easy way to incorporate your students in the morning message is when birthdays roll around, post a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and some days will be completely changed! I am using Ron Clark's house system this year in my classroom and every Monday I update who the house leader is, and the kids love it! Any chance we have to celebrate our students we must do it, and what's easier than typing it up for all to see?

Fun for Clipart/Digital Paper Lovers 

If you are anything like my and have a slight obsession with digital papers and clipart, this is just another way to use all of those goodies you purchased on TPT! I love making new combinations and showing off new clipart, and I love using older clipart I forgot I had! You can get creative! I like to think of it as a blank canvas!

These are just a few reasons why I love using morning messages in my classroom!

My hope is that you give morning messages a try in your classroom if you don't already! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Where I've Been Lately...

Hi everyone! I find myself sitting on my couch after another long week, finally relaxing. I have not been by here lately because I don't feel like I have stopped. Everyone is busy and has a million and two things to do everyday, but this past month has felt like a whirlwind for me. Anyone else out there feel me? I am hoping I am not alone in this! There was the beginning of the school year, I moved, had to go to a wedding back home in Evansville, the beginning of school (oh wait, I already said that), but this year has been a little more crazy than my others. But, I have come out on the other side, and I have survived BTS 2016!

My long absence from the blog is over, and I have some really exciting content coming your way over the next couple of weeks!

I hope you have survived BTS 2016 and are off to a great school year!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back to School Math Centers (4th Grade Review)

Good morning ya'll! The clock is ticking, and I just finished a math bundle that I have been working on to get done before the school year! This bundle is specifically for 4th grade review! I wanted to make some fun math activities for students to get back in the swing of school, and to dust off those cobwebs from the summer! I am going to break down each activity included and explain to you how they can be used in your classroom!

Adding & Subtracting Fractions BINGO

This game is perfect for practicing adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators. It is a simple, student led math center. Students place all of the problem cards face down, then flip one over at a time where everyone in the group solves it, and looks for the sum or difference on their bingo sheet. The goal is to be the first one to get a bingo! (Click the image below to grab this product.)

Comparing Fractions & Decimals Sort

This activity is wonderful for practicing that dreaded skill of comparing decimals and fractions. There are 2 sets of number cards, decimals and fractions. The students pick out 2 of one type of card and lay the cards out in front of them, then they complete the comparison sentence by putting the numbers under the greater than, less than, or equal to apple. For example, if I pulled a 6.78 and 9.01 I would slide the numbers under the less than apple because 6.78 is less than 9.01. (Click the image below to grab this product.)

Mixed Number Match-Up

This activity is great for practicing changing between mixed numbers and improper fractions, and being able to recognize the picture that represents the mixed number and improper fraction. Students must complete the 3 piece puzzles matching the picture representation, improper fraction, and mixed numbers. (Click the image below to grab this product.)

Whole Number Multiplication Mystery Message 

I love mystery messages! They are such a fun way to have students practice a skill. This activity covers 2x1 digit and 2x2 multiplication where the students have to solve the problems on the task cards to get the answer that corresponds to the letter that will help them figure out the message! This message is a very inspirational message for the beginning of the year! (Click the image below to grab this product.)

Rounding Whole Numbers Roll

Rounding. I am hoping I am not the only teacher who feels like rounding is a hard concept for some students. I made this product to hopefully help students practice this skill. There are numbers on the pencils, so students will pick a pencil and then they have to roll the place value dice and round their number to that place value. The place values go from ones to millions. (Click the image below to grab this product.)

Multiplication Math Fact Spoons Game

Who doesn't love the classic card game spoons? I wanted to make this game come to life in my classroom. I wanted to make a versatile activity that can be used in more way than one. This activity is math fact cards from 2-12 facts. They use all the cards and play spoons. There are so many ways you can use this product. Students can practice multiples, prime and composite, even and odd, all four the same product, and many more. The possibilities are endless! (Click the image below to grab this product.)

If these activities would work in your classroom for your students, you can grab the BUNDLE here! All the activities above are included in the bundle!

Happy Back to School friends,


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Things I Wish I Knew As a First Year Teacher

I am about to embark on my third year of teaching, and it is weird to say that because I feel like I just finished up my senior year at Butler, time sure does fly when you're having fun. I think back about the past two years being in the classroom and they have been wonderful, I love what I do with all of my heart, but sadly not everything was fun. I have learned more than I could've ever imagined in two school years, and I feel like I am in a place where I need to reach out to those "newbies", the ones who are currently stressing out about their empty classroom and are second guessing every decision about where to put what poster and how to arrange the desks.

I was just there. It feels like yesterday I was meeting my first group of kids, scared more than they were. I am no where near an expert about being a new teacher, but I experienced it, and that's what you have to do as a newbie, experience it. I have a list of six things I wish I would've been told, or known before that first day. I want to preface this by saying these are my opinions, and I know some people will disagree, but I hope they help calm some nerves of those new teachers, who just need a little reassurance.

1. You won't be perfect.

Teachers are normally Type A all the way, so not having everything perfect is not okay. Going into my first year of teaching, I thought I had to know everything right from the start and every lesson, bulletin board, and classroom set up had to be perfect. I sat and watched all these other more experienced teachers in my building have all their stuff together with ease. On the inside, I was dying because I wanted all of my stuff to be perfect and I wanted it to be easy.

Perfection doesn't happen when you are working with 25 kids, but it can bring so much more. A lesson might not go as perfectly as you envisioned, but your kids might have taken it to a completely new level you were't expecting. Embrace the imperfections, you never know what they might bring to your classroom.

2. Ask for help.

I don't know about you, but I am the type of person who wants to figure it out for herself (Miss Independent right here). I need to be at rock bottom, or super confused to ask for help. This is a huge flaw of mine. Asking for help does not mean you are not a good teacher. Believe me when I say this, you'll feel like you know nothing during your first year of teaching, and it is okay. I always saw asking my principal, literacy and math specialists, and team members for help as a sign of weakness. I could not have been more wrong. 

The difference between my first and second years of teaching were drastically different because of one small thing, I asked for help. During my first year, when I should've been asking questions, I was trying to figure it out for myself and drowning. My second year, I started the year off asking for help from the experts, and I grew so much as an educator because of it. If you are confused, need a good idea, or stubborn (like me) go ask, don't worry about feeling dumb, you're future self will thank you.

3. It is going to be okay.

WARNING! There are going to be times during every year where you feel like you might crack or cry, and that is okay. Everything will be okay. At the end of the day, after taking your kids to their busses, and you realize you forgot to send home a paper from the office, you didn't get to that one part of the lesson, your classroom is a mess, or your kids were off that day, always knows it is going to be okay. Tomorrow is a new day for a reason. 

My first year, I had a rough class that no college education class was going to prepare me for. As I sat at my desk after school, I would constantly feel like I was drowning and failing at everything. I was lucky to have a group of new teachers at my school who bonded right away and who are now best friends. I was told everyday that, "Meredith, it's going to be okay." It was hard for me to believe, and still is sometimes. But trust me, it will be, it will all be okay, just keep swimming...

4. It won't be easy, but...

You know the end of this saying, it'll be worth it. Education is not an easy profession. I am assuming you didn't get into teaching because of the 8-5 job. Our job goes way beyond the 8-5, we have all the standard teaching things like grading, lesson planning, and meetings, but there is so much more. We worry about our kids, I always asked myself what I could do to make their lives easier, especially knowing some of their home lives. 

You will feel like there is no end in sight, but everything you do will be worth it. It will be worth it when that kid has a lightbulb moment, or when the "behavior kid" you were warned about has a fantastic year. When things feel tough and you feel in a rut, have your class into your room for lunch, play some popular music, sing at the top of your lungs (I would recommend "Hello" by Adele), and just hang out with them because those are the moments that truly make all the late nights and early mornings worth it. Seeing your kids smiling and laughing makes it all worth it.

5. They will teach you something.

This is the thing that shocked me the most about becoming a teacher, how much your students will teach you. I thought I was going to be the one doing all the teaching, boy did I get that all wrong. I have learned so much from my students, and what I have learned, I have needed. I teach in a school that has 17+ different languages spoke at home that are not English. I went to what I thought was a high school with a diverse population, so I went in thinking I came from a diverse school, I understand cultural differences. What I have learned, and continue to learn, is how amazing culture is. I have learned more about different cultures in the past two year than I ever thought I knew.

I could go on and on about what I have learned from each one of my students, but I would be here all day, and you wouldn't want to read that, so here's just one. There is something I learned this past year that will forever change how I teach. I had a student last year who genuinely loves life. He is never in a bad mood, and made me smile all the time. When things were stressful and I was filling out data sheets that never seemed to in, he would come into my class in the morning beaming from ear to ear and say some joke, and instantly change my mood. He taught me how to just be happy, life won't aways be easy, but it is so much more fun when you are happy.

My advice to the newbies, don't miss these moments, even some of your toughest kids will teach you something. Spend time reflecting on what each and every one of your students taught you, and if you dare, tell that student before the end of the year and wait for their will be priceless.

You must read Kim Bearden's book Crash Course: The Lessons My Students Taught Me.

6. Enjoy every moment with your kids.

Time flies. Some parts of school will drag, especially when you are waiting for spring break and winter seems to never end, (I'm from Indiana, you never know what the weather will be.) My last piece of advice to you is to truly enjoy the time you have with your kids. The small laughs you have in small group because a boy stands up from the small group table and shimmies while saying "hula-hula" because he thinks a Hawaiian shirt is a coconut bra, or playing 4-square at recess and being dethroned, or hugging a child because they have so much going on at home they can no longer take it. The time we are given with our kids is special, cherish every second of it. Each one of your students will touch your heart in their own special way.

So there they are, my 6 things I wish I would've known before my first year of teaching. I want you to know that I am only in year 3, I have so much more to learn. I am by no means an expert teacher, but I have lived the first year, and my hope is that you can leave with some reassurance that you're not the only one feeling how your feeling. I hope you have a wonderful first year, and keep smiling!

Experienced teachers, comment below with some other things you wish you would've known!

Wishing you the best of luck this year,

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Using Books to Build Your Classroom Community

The official countdown is on, I have 2 weeks from Wednesday until I get to greet my new kiddos at my door. (Insert panic face emoji!) There are still lots, and lots, and lots of things on my to-do lists, but I am slowly checking them off. 

I have three days to work with during our first week, and I recently planned those days out focusing around community building and building relationships among the students and me. I think my favorite part about teaching is building those relationships and seeing relationships build between my kids. What better way to start the conversation in my classroom than through books. I love books, especially when I get to read aloud a good picture books to my fifth graders. I am going to share 3 books I plan to use at the beginning of the year to help build my classroom community.

Wild About Us! by Karen Beaumont

This is one I am very excited about starting the first day of school with! Sarah from A Rocky Top Teacher posted this book on Instagram, and I instantly went to Amazon and pressed add to cart, purchase, and in just 2 clicks it was on its way. Amazon is a scary, yet wonderful thing.

This book goes through the different animals in the zoo and brings out all the special qualities of the animals. It is fun, cute, and a quick read. After you read it, the conversation about being different and acceptance in the classroom will naturally happen. I cannot wait see what conversations come from this book.

This could be turned into a writing activity where students right about what makes them special and unique. I think this could be rather challenging because I don't know about you, I am not good at saying what makes me unique or writing about myself at all. It'll be a fun challenge for them.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Wow. What a powerful book. If you do not have this, I believe every class should have access to this book, no matter how young or old. This story follows a young boy who feels 'invisible' at school and how much of a toll it takes on his life. I will spare you the rest of the details because you need to go get it and read it for yourself! Once again, the conversations after this book would be incredible talking about including everyone in the class.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book, right here, is hands down my favorite book. If you have not heard of Wonder, please run to your nearest bookstore or Target and pick this up! I have read it more times than I can count, and every time it makes me laugh, cry, and feel all the feels. I have read it to both of the classes I have had, and each of them LOVED this book and fell completely in love with the characters. In May, they were still mentioning Auggie and this story. (Side note: This is being turned into a movie!)  I could go on and on about why this book is amazing, but I will save it all and allow you to go feel all the feels!

I hope these texts inspire you to use books to help build a community in your classroom this coming school year.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Parent Teacher Communication & FREEBIE

I am busy getting ready for the back to school madness, that is quickly creeping up on me. When do you start back? My district's first day with kids is Wednesday, August 3 (a.k.a. too soon)! I am also dealing with a to-do list that continues to grow, and never seems to shorten. This crazy time of the year is one of my favorites though. Who doesn't love the smell of fresh crayons, and updating classroom decorations? It makes me all giddy inside thinking about it!

A very important part of the beginning of school is establishing relationships with not only the kids in your class, but the people who see those kids as they whole world, their parents.

I am going to share how I organize my parent communication, ways I use to communicate with parents, and one new way I am going to give a try this year!


I use a binder like most people to keep track of when I called which parent. It isn't anything fancy, but it keeps my ducks in a row.

I keep this binder right next to my desk, which is by my computer and phone. Every phone call, gets written in the binder, and every email thread, is printed and put in the binder. 

I have it organized with tabs that I have written numbers on. Those numbers correspond with the numbers I give each student to make my life so much easier. I also do numbers because I don't have to update it every year by relabeling, I just have to update the papers.

The form I use is pretty simple. I start the year off with each tab having 2-3 pages behind it, so it is ready to go.

The diagram(ish) below just shows you what I use each part for and its significance.

If you want my binder cover and this form, get it for FREE in my TeachersPayTeacher store, or click 
the picture below.


I do the normal ways of communication, phone calls and emails, but below are two different ways I reach out/planning to reach out to parents.

BRIGHT NOTES: I started something new last year that I love doing. I call them "Bright Notes". They are simple, and honestly my favorite type of parent communication because I get to brag on their child. The "Bright Notes" are literally notes that have been written on AstroBright paper. The notes are specifically for positive things I saw during the day/week. I love them because I can send home a note saying how proud I am of a student about something super small or big he/she did in the classroom. This allows me to keep the parents informed on the small things their kids do throughout the day. I encourage the parents to keep them those notes on the refrigerator to keep the student motivated! :)

These notes can only be found in the student's mailboxes. During pack-up time when students go to their mailboxes they get so excited to see a "Bright Note" and secretly hide it with their other papers to keep it a secret. The looks on their faces melt my heart, especially when its a child that has worked really hard on something.

What I love about these notes is how easy they are. I have them printed and ready to go whenever I want to write one. Of course, I have them printed on many different beautiful AstroBright colors!

CLASSROOM WEBSITE/BLOG: After being inspired by multiple bloggers, I have decided to have a classroom website this year. I cannot wait to have another outlet where parents can get information, so those papers that "got lost" on their way home aren't an excuse to not know what is happening at school.

I plan on using it for important dates, a copy of my newsletter, and weekly posts about what we did. I want to try where each child is assigned a week, and they will write the weekly post for the class telling the parents what we did that week. I cannot wait to roll this out in August!

I read up on how The Brown Bag Teacher (she has a wonderful blog post explaining how she uses it) uses Weebly, and I decided to give that a try. It is really easy to use. I will come back and review how I like it later in the school year! :)

I hope you found something useful in this post you can take back to your classroom!