Tips for Surviving the Last Month of School!

How do you acknowledge the end of the year with your students?  Are you feeling the end of year stress set in?  Do you have a million things to finish up and submit?  Are your students "done" and your classroom is too hot to work in?  If you answered yes to any of these, you are not alone.  The last weeks of school are a challenge!  This post is for you!  Read on to find out my tips for surviving this last month of school  I promise that it doesn't add to your already full plate and total teacher exhaustion.


This post is full of tips to help you survive the last month of school.  These ideas will help you enjoy your final weeks with your students while not adding to your stress or you constant state of teacher tired.


I know there are teachers out there that prefer to continue following the same routines and the last week of school or so do not look much different.  Then there are others that start the year-end celebrations as soon as all of the marking and report writing is over.  Where do you fall on this spectrum?  Leave me a comment below and let me know what camp you are in!   I would love to know.  I would fall more on the celebration end of the spectrum, but I definitely don't set aside all of our daily routines and structure.  Where ever you fall I am sure these tips and suggestions will help you.


Take care of YOU first! 

This first tip is ALL ABOUT YOU.  Check out 5 tips I shared in this blog post to make your end of the year as easy as is possible.  Click on the image below to check it out.  Once you have your own sanity in check, you can think about having fun with your students.

5 End of the year Sanity Savers to help you to prepare for the next school year.


Theme days!  

Check out this blog post with 5 suggestions for Theme days that will not be overwhelming to plan and won't break the bank either.  They are fun and straightforward, which are two musts for this super tired teacher at the end of the year.  Click on the images to check out the post! 

Make the end of the year memorable with free or inexpensive activities with your students such as playing with chalk and bubbles, using the outdoors as a classroom and have a board game or pajama day.


Enlist their help!  

Let's talk classroom clean up.  Do you kids help out in the classroom through a classroom jobs program throughout the year? Mine do and are thrilled when it is their turn to help out with a particular job.  At the end of the year, there are LOTS of jobs your students can do to help out.  Make a list of jobs to be completed and have them "sign up" to take on that task.  You will be amazed at how quickly you can have your books sorted, markers tested, manipulatives organized etc.

Take a vote!

Ask your students how they want to celebrate the end of their year together.  They may very well have some excellent ideas of how to recognize the end of the year.  When I do this, I always set a few parameters.  I always say it has to be something we can do in our classroom or on the playground.  If I don't, then I get lots of wild and crazy suggestions like going to a water park LOL.  See what they come up with.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Reflect on your year together! 

Did you take pictures of activities throughout the year?  I am always taking photos to document learning.  Print out some of those pictures and have students choose which of the pictures they want to write about.  Gather all those photo stories together and create a class book that you can enjoy together.  It also makes a great book to share with your incoming class, so they get a taste of what the year holds for them.

Create a memory book! 

Create your own class memory book to capture all the important events in the classroom.  The best way to prep for making a memory book is to look at those pictures mentioned above.  You can also create a slideshow of many of those images to remind students of the many things that happened during the year.  This jogs their memory and helps them to record some of those memories in their books.  Last year we did this fun movie-themed memory book and my students LOVED it.  You can check out some of the pages below.  You can take a closer look at it by clicking on any of the images.

Use a memory book as a meaningful way to remember the school year.  Your students will love this movie-themed memory book where they are the star of the show.


Use a memory book as a meaningful way to remember the school year.  Your students will love this movie-themed memory book where they are the star of the show.




I hope you found something to take away from this post.  Take a moment and comment below with how you intend to celebrate the end of your school year.

The last month of school is HARD. Find tips here on how to survive that last month with your students. Find tips to help you wrap up the classroom and prepare for next year as well as ways to have fun with your students that won't break the bank or make you any more teacher tired than you already are. Finally why not make a memory book to capture those fun moments throughout the year.



Until next time, 

A Simple Way to Motivate Young Writers!

If you are a primary teacher, then you know teaching writing to young children can be HARD.  Writing is an elusive skill for many of our little ones, and they often lack the motivation to persist when it is hard.  I want to share with you a writing activity I do around this time of the year that really helps to motivate my students and get them writing more.

Help your students set goals during writing.  Work together to establish goals based on their own writing and then use this bookmark to help students keep track of their goals.  Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.


First off, I want to share a bit about my philosophy about kid writing.

1.  Have them write, write, write and then write some more!  Kids learn by doing.  We start writing at the beginning of the year during the first week - shared writing as a class and independent writing (that may not look a lot like writing initially).

2.  I DO NOT correct conventions at this point.  I don't worry about punctuation.  I don't worry about sprinkling capitals in the middle of words.  I don't worry about invented spelling.  I want them to WRITE.

3. I rarely have them write using an assigned topic.  Students are free to write about whatever they want.  This helps with motivation in a big way.

You might be thinking WHAT are you doing??  These things are fundamental skills for students to learn as writers.  You are right, they are essential skills, but none of these skills matter if they don't write.  First and foremost, I believe kids need to write and by just letting them write I feel like they grow so much more.  The minute I put constraints on their writing they tend to shut down.

Now that I have digressed let's get back to the topic.  In March and early April, I ask my students to take out their journals and take a look at their writing.  I have them go back and read the pieces they wrote at the beginning of the year and then continue to read all of the entries to the current time.  The first a-ha many of them have is that they can't read their own stories that they wrote at the beginning of the year.  They also notice things like there are no periods or that there are capital letters EVERYWHERE.  This is just what I want them to see and leads me our next activity: GOAL SETTING. 

Help your students set goals during writing.  Work together to establish goals based on their own writing and then use this bookmark to help students keep track of their goals.  Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.

As a class, we talk about things we have learned throughout the year to improve our writing, and we make a list.  My students take a look at their own journals and the co-constructed list to write their personal goals on the Writing Goals bookmark.  This bookmark stays in their writing folder for reference.

The last step is having students select a piece they wrote in the Fall that they would like to improve.  This step can be kind of tricky if they can't read any of the stories, but with a bit of support, every student was able to choose a piece of writing to work on and improve.


Help your students set goals during writing.  Work together to establish goals based on their own writing and then use this bookmark to help students keep track of their goals. Display work completed earlier in the year so students can see how much they have grown as a writer.  Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.

Help your students set goals during writing.  Work together to establish goals based on their own writing and then use this bookmark to help students keep track of their goals. Display work completed earlier in the year so students can see how much they have grown as a writer.  Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.


This is the result: Students who were not writing at all in the fall are now writing several sentences. Students who wrote a sentence or two are now filling the page.  Students are using conventions and adding detail and thinking about what they want to say.  It is so wonderful to see.  I make a big deal out of it by creating these "before and after" style displays and sharing them with families.

If you are looking for a way to motivate your students as the year is drawing to a close then give this a try.  You can grab my Goal Setting bookmark for FREE by clicking on the picture below.

Help your students set goals during writing.  Work together to establish goals based on their own writing and then use this bookmark to help students keep track of their goals. Grab a free writing goal setting bookmark to use with your students.



Until next time!

Teach about Healthy Eating with the Health Heroes!

Teaching your students about eating healthy food is super important.  It is also crucial to make the learning fun and relatable.  I haven't taught my health curriculum for several years (it was part of my planning time coverage), so when I started, I knew I needed something low prep and fun.  This is how the Health Heroes were born!


Teach your healthy eating curriculum using the Health Heroes.  Your students will learn all about proper nutrition, food groups, healthy and unhealthy foods and finally plan a healthy meal.

The Health Heroes are a boy and girl superhero who will help you engage your students while learning about maintaining a healthy body and eating healthy.  We start out by talking about ways we can be healthy.   My students have lots of ideas - some that are true and some that are not.  I find this the best way to start any unit, so you know where the learning has to begin.

Like most teachers, I love picture books and use them to launch most units and lessons.  This is a collection of some of the titles I have used in the past.  Our school has a series of books about the food groups that I like to keep on hand.  The Grains book in the image is an example of the kind of non-fiction book I am talking about.

Use this collection of picture books to launch or supplement your unit on Healthy eating.


I especially love Gregory, the Terrible Eater and The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food.  They are fun books, and the kids can really relate to them.

There are several videos that I have used as part of my healthy eating unit that are great to check out as well.  This first one is part of a series called created by the Eat Happy Project.   There are videos for all of the food groups.



Crash Course Kids is another great resource for all things Science and Health.



We start into exploring healthy eating by playing with and sorting play food.   The students sorted the foods in some really interesting ways - when you eat the food, where the food comes from, and by food colour. With prompts, they were finally able to sort by food group groups.

Teach your healthy eating curriculum using the Health Heroes.  Your students will learn all about proper nutrition, food groups, healthy and unhealthy foods and finally plan a healthy meal.

We used the food cards included in the Health Heroes resource to play lots of different games.  This one is Mingle.  They had to find people with food in the same food group as them.

We did a lot of independent practice to show what we knew about our learning about healthy eating.  We sorted food, wrote about food that was a sometimes food and created our own food group posters.  In true first grade fashion, one of the daily highlights was to see if the activity page had a boy or girl health hero #itsthelittlethings.

Teach your healthy eating curriculum using the Health Heroes.  This full unit has lessons and an assessment task to ensure your  students will learn all about proper nutrition, food groups, healthy and unhealthy foods and finally plan a healthy meal.

Teach your healthy eating curriculum using the Health Heroes.  This full unit has lessons and an assessment task to ensure your  students will learn all about proper nutrition, food groups, healthy and unhealthy foods and finally plan a healthy meal.


Just before our culminating activity for the unit, I wanted to see if the students could put into practice what we had learned about the food groups and sometimes foods.  We gathered on the carpet and sorted our lunches.  It is an eye-opening experience to have them actually look at what they have in their lunch and compare it to what they know they should be eating.  You could see the wheels turning for some of the kids.


Teach your healthy eating curriculum using the Health Heroes.  This full unit has lessons and an assessment task to ensure your  students will learn all about proper nutrition, food groups, healthy and unhealthy foods and finally plan a healthy meal.


To wrap up the unit my students picked a meal they wanted to plan and then used grocery store flyers to find the food and show their meal.  I also included pictures of food in the resource that they could use as well.  I assessed their finished product with the rubric I created as part of the unit.

If you are looking for a fun and low prep way to teach Healthy Eating in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade check out the line of Health Heroes units.

Healthy eating unit for Canadian first and second grade students that includes lessons, printables, assessment task and a rubric.

Healthy eating unit for Canadian third grade students that includes lessons, printables, assessment task and a rubric.

Healthy eating unit for US first and second grade students that includes lessons, printables, assessment task and a rubric.




I hope you got some inspiration for your healthy eating unit!

Pin this post so that you can return to it when you are ready to teach your Healthy Eating unit.

Healthy eating unit for  first, second or third grade students that includes lessons, printables, assessment task and a rubric.


Until next time!

Looking back at 2017 - My Year in Review

Happy New Year!  I like to begin the year looking back at my blog posts to see what you, my readers, read the most.  Today I am sharing my top 10 most read posts of 2017 and a few honourable mentions as well.  You can visit each post by clicking on the image for each post.  




Number 10 -  How to Make the Transition Back after a School Break a Smooth One. 

I head back in another week and will be keeping all these things in mind as I greet my first graders.  I know from experience that I need to ease back in or it will be a rocky start. 
 



Number 9 - Phonemic and Phonological Awareness: What is the Difference?  

This post helps you to understand the difference between these skills and has a great free download to help you get started assessing phonemic and phonological awareness. Be sure to save this post for Back to School time.  




Number 8 - Use Hands-On Centers and Ditch the Worksheets.  

Are you becoming a victim of too much paper in your classroom?  I was definitely falling into the paper trap, but I am finding my way out by using more hands-on center activities and assessing through photo and video documentation.  Check out this post to find out how and to learn more about these centers.  



Number 7 - How to Get Started with a Word Wall - Practicing the Word Wall Words

In this post, I share lots of great (FREE) ways to practice your word wall or sight words every day!  This is another post to save and look back on as you return to school in the Fall.  


Number 6 - 12 Ways to use Play-Doh to Teach

What student doesn't love to play with Play-Doh.  In this post, I share ways to use it while teaching literacy and math skills.  My students all have a small container of play-doh in their desk.  


Number 5 - 3 Things you Need for Guided Reading

Do you struggle with guided reading?  Do you wonder what you should be doing and wish you knew what resources you should be using to make your teaching life easier?  If you answer yes to either of these questions, then check out this post. 


Number 4 - How to Get Started with a Word Wall - The Word Jail!

Number 4 is another in my Word Wall Series.  This time I share my Word Jail or Doghouse! I use both of these to teach my kids how to read and spell tricky words.  Check out this post if you have students that struggle to spell rule breaker words.  


Number 3 ~ Teaching 2D Geometry using Centers your Students will LOVE!

In this post, I share lots of ideas to teach 2D geometry and talk more about ways to use less paper while still keeping your kids busy, productive and learning.  


Number 2 - How to Get Started with a Word Wall 

Do you use a Word Wall in your classroom?  I think they are essential and I explain why every first-grade classroom needs one.  


Number 1 ~ What's in your Guided Reading Toolkit?

Drum roll, please... My most read post of 2017 (and all time) is all about Guided Reading.  In this post, I talk about 4 things I use every day with my students (they are not teacher resources) that helps to keep them engaged and involved in the lessons.  This is a must-read post, especially for those new to teaching or new to guided reading. 


And now for a few honourable mentions.  These posts just missed making the top 10 this year. 

How to Get Started with Flexible Seating

I tried flexible seating this year.  This post details my journey so far and also debunks the myth that you need to spend a fortune to get started with flexible seating.  


Teaching Word Family Words - How to get them to "stick."

This is part 4 of the Word Wall series, and it focuses on the importance of teaching word families.  


Getting Started with Good Morning Baskets

Start the day off with Good Morning Baskets.  The kids get to settle into the day in a more relaxed way.  Check out this post for ideas that are skill building and fun.  

 
Phew... that was quite a list.

On a more serious note.  I am truly thankful to each and every one of you who have visited my blog, read my posts and commented.  It makes my heart happy to think I am having an impact on educators around the world.  I hope you will continue to visit and read what I have to say about all things first grade (and early primary).  I look forward to sharing many more ideas, freebies and tips in the new year.  My wish for you is that you have a 2018 filled with health and happiness and that you remember to step away from the classroom and take time for you too! 

Happy New Year,

Until next time,