Assessment Tips for Distance Learning

As a new school year begins with distance learning, there are so many questions to be answered about assessment logistics and more importantly, accuracy of the results. We are going to be starting our beginning of the year assessments in the coming weeks and I am still unsure of what it looks like. One thing I do know, I need my data to be as accurate as possible. 

assessment tips for distance learning

TIPS FOR GIVING ASSESSMENTS DURING DISTANCE LEARNING


ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO DO THEIR BEST: Let students know these assessments are to help you teach them this school year. All they need to do is their best work. Scores don't matter. This will lower their anxiety levels too. 


A QUIET PLACE TO WORK FREE OF DISTRACTIONS: This may be easier for some students than others. However, whenever possible, a test taking environment free of siblings, pets, toys, etc. will  help a child focus on the test they are taking online and therefore give more accurate results.



CHECK YOUR TECH: It is important for students, parents, and teachers to make sure they know how to use their technology, especially during assessments. Can multiple windows be opened at once? Do your students know how to click between the different windows? Do teachers know how to share their screen so students only see the test and not where they are marking assessment results? This takes time and practice to set up.


GET PARENTS ON BOARD: Parents need to understand the importance of these assessments. The results need to be accurate, so we can guide our instruction. If parents are prompting, reading, and giving their child answers during the tests, the effort will all be for nothing. Our students have basically missed five months of school. It's pretty safe to say, it should not be the norm to move up five reading levels in that time! In order for there to be a chance for accurate testing results, we need the parents help! I created a list of guidelines to help parents understand the DOs and DON'Ts of how they can help their child during assessments!


I am emailing these guidelines out to my parents just before we start testing. The intention is to inform parents the best way to "help" their children in order to get the most accurate assessment results.

You can gain access to this FREE resource by putting your email into the pop up form that is on your screen when you first come to my blog. You will be emailed a password and gain access to this resource, as well as, many more distance learning resources, which you can download for FREE! Already a subscriber? Just enter the password into the SUBSCRIBER RESOURCE LIBRARY link at the top of the page.

How are you preparing for distance learning assessments? I would love to hear from you!


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Distance Learning: 4 Great Ways To Start the School Year

Many of us are just weeks away from starting a new school year. This year is going to be drastically different for most of us, though. Many of us will be starting the school year virtually. This is something most of us did not imagine happening. But, here we are trying to prepare ourselves as we embark on this new way of teaching and learning.


We all have so many unanswered questions about everything from logistics, online platforms to use, hours online, funding, supplies, making emotional connections with our students and families. The list goes on and on. Everyone is experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. Most things, about this situation, are out of our control, so it is important to focus on what we CAN control. 

4  POSITIVE WAYS TO START THE SCHOOL YEAR 

1. Have students record a video about what they are excited about for the upcoming year. This is a great way for students to share their personalities in a safe environment, while allowing them to express their wonders, excitements and/or concerns for the year. FlipGrid is a great way for students to share and respond to each other's videos.



2. Create digital portfolios with Google Sites. This is a school year not to be forgotten. With Google Sites, students can create a digital portfolio and post work they are proud of during the year and reflect on it. They can use video or audio recordings to post and comment on their work. This option provides students a more natural and comfortable way to communicate, opposed to the traditional form of writing. As a teacher, it will give better insight to how students feel about their work, and allow room to adjust teaching strategies and support students where they need it most.


3. Build routines to lower anxiety levels of students and parents. When environments are predictable, brains will be calmer. Just like in the classroom, students like routines. The same applies to the online classroom. Students need to know what to expect, where to get their lessons and how to submit them. Parents need to know class expectations, so they can help their child while learning at home too. Start to build these routines on day one!

4. Take first day of school pictures to document this unprecedented time. Email first day of school signs for students to hold and have parents take their picture. Parents can email the pictures and then teachers can create an online board with the pictures to build classroom community. 


You can get access to this FREE resource by putting your email into the pop up form that is on your screen when you first come to my blog. You will be emailed a password and gain access to this resource, as well as, many more distance learning resources, which you can download for FREE!





Tips & Freebies for Distance Learning At Home

Considering all that is going on in the world right now with COVID-19, I know most schools have started to implement a digital distance learning platform for awhile. I thought I would put together some online resources I am using with my students and share some strategies I am using with them. 
I have also included some freebies at the end, as well!


It is important to keep in mind that we all have very different student populations. I work at a Title 1 school, but I have many students that have access to technology at home, as well as many students who do not. During this time, our school has made devices accessible for all students by lending them out if parents came to sign for them and pick them up. Also, I know many internet companies, are providing free internet access to students for distance learning. 

 AMAZING ONLINE TOOLS:

PODCASTS
Podcasts are a great learning tool for students to use at home. Choose a podcast for your students to listen to (or have them choose from a variety you give them) and have them fill out a quick podcast brochure to document what they learned. Podcasts are high interest and engaging. They allow students to practice and hone in on those listening skills, while creating independent choice and  allowing them to reflect on their learning. Some favorite podcasts are:
  • But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids
  • Brains On! Science Podcast for Kids
  • KiDNuZ
  • What If World
  • Story Time


KHAN ACADEMY
Khan Academy is a free site I use to help supplement math curriculum for my students. There are short videos which teach lessons and can be followed up with practice exercises and quizzes. It can be tailored to individual student needs and provides extra practice with concepts taught in class.

NEWSELA
Newsela is a subscription program that is currently FREE during distance learning! It offers meaningful, high-interest non-fiction articles that meet students at their reading level. At the same time, it combines real-time formative assessments with the differentiation your students need to be successful!

VOOKS
Vooks is an amazing online site which brings storybooks to life for children ages 2-8! The library is ever growing and helps students with their pacing of reading, connections between words and text and most importantly, life lessons. Use the link to sign up for your FREE subscription TODAY!

MYSTERY SCIENCE
My students LOVE Mystery Science. Right now, they are offering several free lessons and mini lessons to teachers and parents for use at home during the time of coronavirus. Click HERE to access them.

BRAINPOP
Brainpop is currently offering FREE use during this time. It has engaging videos on various subjects to help teach different topics and skills. You can attach a link to Google Classroom, your district online system, a message or even to an email.

SCHOLASTIC
Scholastic has made many of their resources free for teachers to use during school closures. Make sure to check them out at Scholastic Learn At Home: Free Resources.

Here are 3 FREE resources to help you get started with Podcasts and Distance Learning Norms and Lesson Planning. You can get access to these resources by putting your email into the pop up form that is on your screen when you first come to my blog. You will be emailed a password and gain access to these resources and many more, which you can download for FREE!







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10 Amazon Classroom Favorites

If you're a teacher, you are probably somewhat obsessed with Amazon...if not completely obsessed with it, like I am! Pretty much everything you could need or want is just a click away and delivered within hours or a day (if you have Prime). I wanted to share some of my favorite Amazon finds because who knows, maybe there will be something you can't live without for your classroom too!

amazon classroom supplies
his post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. By purchasing an item using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

amazon magnetic pockets
These magnetic pockets are great for vocabulary words, picture cards, sound cards, or items you don't want to forget to use throughout the day. I have one that holds the brag tags I want to pass out to my students throughout the day. 


amazon adhesive magnets
I love using magnetic dots! I put them on anchor charts, our classroom jobs, posters etc. Anything I want to move around, magnetic adhesives go on the back. 


amazon basics flair pens
I love me some Flair pens! BUT, they dry out so quickly. These Amazon Basics flair-like pens are awesome! I think they write better than regular Flair pens. They are WAY cheaper! And they last longer! Give them a try! They come in tons of different colors too!

whiteboard magnetic numbers
I used to write the date on the board with dry erase marker each day. By the end of the day, half of it had been worn off or erased. Super annoying. Then I started using magnetic numbers and letters. Game changer! I don't have to worry about it disappearing throughout the day. It takes two seconds to change at the end of the day and I am ready to go. 



magnetic borders
I simply love my magnetic borders! I wish I had purchased them sooner. It adds some warmth to a drab white board that the kids have to look at all day. It's like adding curtains to a window. It changes the whole feel of the room. 


This pencil sharpener is a game changer! I simply LOVE it! It is the only one that has held up for me. Most only last a school year. This bad boy has lasted 3 years so far! I did put this special reminder on the front of it. YELLOW PENCILS ONLY! Those adorable painted or wrapped pencils, colored pencils and crayons are NOT allowed. They ruin the sharpener quickly and then you are off to buy a new one. Trust me. I have lived it. Invest in a great sharpener and take care of it!


I use labels for EVERYTHING! From student folders, to art projects, to composition books, you name it, I label it! It's just a time saver! I used to write out the students' names on everything. Now I print a page of 30 labels with each student's name on it at the beginning of the year. They are always ready and I just slap them on and go! 


personal laminator
This is a no brainer. Having your own personal laminator is a MUST! This is something I double up on.... one for home and one for the classroom. I have had my Scotch laminator for years. It gets a crazy amount of use. It's still going strong. 

Having your own lamiator gives you flexibility. You don't have to wait for the school laminator to warm up or be free to use. If your school is anything like mine, it is usually out of lamination film and can't be used. Trust me, this is a life changing purchase. You will love it!



These dry erase pockets are the best! They save on copies and the kids love using them. I put them out in centers. This way I don't have to make a class set of papers and the kids can answer and check their work. 

paper trimmer
Investing in a quality paper trimmer will just save you time. I have one in my classroom and one at home. You can cut through a stack of paper at one time. And...you can even cut through lamination if you purchase a quality paper trimmer. 

To see all my classroom MUST HAVES, click HERE.


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favorite amazon classroom supplies


7 Teacher Organization Tips for the Classroom

Let's face it, staying organized in the classroom isn't as easy as it sounds. There are constant daily (even hourly) interruptions. There are people coming in and out of your classroom. Announcements at all the wrong times. The office calling your classroom letting you know a student is going home early. Who can relate?

Staying organized just makes things easier. When you are organized everything runs smoother. No lost instruction time, smoother transitions, better behavior from your students, and less stress!

classroom organization tips for back to school
This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. By purchasing an item using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

#1 STICK TO A SCHEDULE
It is extremely important to have a daily schedule that is consistent. You need to have a general idea of what is going to be happening and when throughout each day. For example, language arts is always first thing in the morning. After recess is writing and grammar. After lunch, math and social studies or science. This not only helps you, but your students, as well. 

#2 POST A DAILY AGENDA
Now that you have established a general daily schedule, it is time to be more specific. I always post our daily agenda on our classroom white board. I go over it at the beginning of the day with my students. This not only helps them to know what we will be doing throughout the day, but myself as well. I do NOT put times. Times just make everyone anxious. I tell my students this is our general plan for the day. If we don't get to something, it is OK. 

#3 KEEP A PLAN BOOK
It never fails that your admin comes in and wants to see your plans at all the wrong times, like during transition or your whole group teaching time. Having my lesson plans easily accessible is crucial. I type my plans and keep them in a binder near my teacher station. They are color coded by subject and always open to the day's lessons. I can easily hand it to my admin without interrupting instruction. 

#4 MAKE LISTS
Lists, lists, and more lists....that is me! I don't do anything fancy for my list making. I write everything on Post-It Notes. I have them in all sizes and colors around my room. They are at my desk, next to my computer, at my small group station...everywhere! I cross off as I have completed things (this makes me giddy) and add throughout the day. I usually stick my lists onto my laptop because I know I won't lose them there. Find a system that works for you and use it consistently. If I didn't make lists, I would forget half (or more) of the things I need to do. 

classroom organization tips

#5 LABEL ALL THE THINGS
I label everything! I want someone to be able to walk into my room and find what they need if I am not there. My file cabinets are labeled with what can be found inside. My copies are labeled by subject or by day of the week. Manipulatives are organized in bins and labeled. Everything has a place. This also helps my students keep the room organized. We can't do it alone! I use these labels in my classroom and home office to keep everything neatly organized:

 classroom and home office labels for organization
They come in two sizes to meet all your labeling needs. They can be printed on self adhesive labels or just print, cut and go! Check them out, HERE

#6 ORGANIZE YOUR COPIES
Copies, oh copies! There is so much paperwork associated with teaching! If you teach younger grades, there always seems to be more copies too. 

File your copies BY THE WEEK into hanging file folders, crates or paper organizing trays! I actually use hanging file folders AND paper organizing trays the most. I like to plan a month in advance. Don't freak out! This is not for everyone. If planning a month in advance freaks you out, just stick to one or two weeks. Find what works for you. 

I use paper trays for my WEEKLY copies. I label the trays by subject (ELA, Math, Science etc.) I label by subject because I don't always get to everything I have planned. If I missed something during my grammar lesson on Monday and I don't get to it until Wednesday, I can just go to my grammar paper tray and get my copies. I don't have to try and remember what day of the week I had originally planned it for. 

The rest of my copies (for my monthly planning) go into file folders in my file cabinet. My file folders are also labeled by subject. On Friday, I look at my lesson plans for the following week and pull out my copies and put them into the appropriate paper tray near my teacher work station.


#7 KEEP YOUR SPECIAL TEACHER SUPPLIES NEAR YOU
I keep supplies JUST FOR ME to use during teacher instructional time: Flair pens, Post-It Notes, Mr. Sketch Markers for anchor charts, Expo dry erase markers, and magnetic manipulatives. This way they are right there when I need them. No instructional time is lost. I just swivel in my chair and quickly reach for what I need.




There you have it! SEVEN simple and easy to implement organizational hacks for all my teacher friends out there.

I would love to hear your organizational tips too! Please share them in the comments below. 

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back to school teacher organization tips

Ideas to Teach Emotional Regulation In the Classroom

It seems like any normal day in my classroom. My students walk in. They are chatting, turning in their homework, getting settled and starting to work on their morning warm up. I say good morning to each of them, as they walk in the door, and greet them with a smile. 

I go to my desk to take attendance and notice Caleb isn't in his seat. He is wandering through the classroom chatting with different classmates. His things aren't put away. He goes to get a drink of water. Then he needs to use the restroom. I redirect him and get him settled in his seat.

Next thing I know, 30 minutes have passed. Most students are engaged in their morning work. Caleb, though, hasn't even started. He has 4 highlighters on his desk, a pencil sharpener, 3 pencils, 5 emoji erasers and his jacket is on backwards with the hood over his face. 

And all I can think is, "Lord, help me. This is going to be a L.O.N.G day!"

emoji emotions chart

I know I am not alone. We all have  AT LEAST one of these students in our classes. What do your instincts tell you to do? Punish Caleb? Send him to the office? Send a scathing message to his parents? Pull your hair out (always a viable option...I'm joking!). There are a few strategies you can use the help those students get back on track and improve classroom behavior.

1. SET THE TONE FROM THE BEGINNING: BUILD TRUST

Building trust with students can be accomplished in a variety of ways. After the weekend, many students come to school with "baggage" from home and need a safe way to discuss and release their emotions. Each Monday, I have a discussion circle. It's very informal. Participation is not required. It is a way to check in with each student. They can discuss something good that happened, something that is bothering them, or nothing at all. There are students that give a thumbs up, thumbs down or neutral signal and don't talk at all. I check in with those students one on one later in the day. The most important thing is that there is NO JUDGEMENT from anyone. This helps students be honest about their feelings and trust begins to be built. This process takes about 20 minutes once a week.


emotions chart

2. CHECK IN ALL DAY

It is extremely important to continuously check in emotionally with your students all week (not just on Mondays). These EMOJI EMOTIONAL CUE CARDS are a key tool in my classroom to help with emotional regulation. Many students have difficulty expressing their emotions in words. These cards are kept on their desks and students can point to an emoji that describes how they are feeling that day. 

Students use the numbers to determine "the weight" of the issue which is bothering them. For example, Caleb may point to the angry emoji on the top right side of the card. He is fuming! However, after speaking with Caleb, you find out someone took his favorite pencil. This problem can easily be solved with some help and would only be a 1 or 2 on the number scale. 

This visual helps students see how emotionally upset they are compared to the ability to solve the issue. 

3. CREATE A "SAFE SPOT" IN YOUR CLASSROOM

As teachers, it is important to create a classroom where students feel emotionally safe. All feelings are OK and will be respected. From day one in my classroom, students know they can go to the safe spot with no questions asked. I have an area in the back of my room students may use. They can rest, do deep breathing, mindfulness exercises and just take some time for themselves to reset. 

4. MINDFULNESS ACTIVITIES WITH GONOODLE


GoNoodle is a great resource for teaching students mindfulness strategies. Students learn ways to manage stress, build their confidence and self control, as well as, build compassion for others. The students absolutely LOVE the activities!

5. BE VULNERABLE: SHARE YOUR FEELINGS

Teachers are the best role models for emotional regulation. Model for your students how to properly handle stress and emotions. Talk to them about how your are feeling when you are trying to teach them this incredible lesson and get interrupted 100 times with calls from the office, people walking in and out of the classroom and the same question being asked 20 different ways. 

Explain what you are feeling to your students. Talk about how you handle it. Also, make sure they know you are not perfect and make mistakes. This will help them realize managing emotions is a life long learning lesson! 

How do you teach emotional regulation in your classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas! 

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emoji emotions chart

Summer Reading Pics for Teachers

Summer...summer time! Yes, that is correct! It is summer time, my friends. And you know what that means? Alarm clocks are set to off. PJs all day. AND....extra free time to read at my leisure! Sign me up!


This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. By purchasing an item using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.


I love a good mindless read in the summer time or anytime for that matter! I am not into thrillers or scary suspense books. I do love a little historical fiction AND I love any book that makes me fall in love with the characters and escape reality as much as possible.

One of my summer reading struggles is whether to get my hands on an actual book (my preferred way to read) or reading on my Kindle. Here is how it usually goes down.... I start off by purchasing an actual book. I read it and love it. Then I find out it is part of a series or I love the author and want to read more. This is where my Kindle comes in. I love instant gratification. I don't have to wait for Amazon Prime to deliver my book. If I am on vacay, I can continue reading instantly without skipping a beat or carrying bulky books with me on my carry on. 

BOOKS I'VE READ AND LOVE!

Lost and Found Sisters: In this story, Quinn Weller seems to have the perfect life as an up and coming chef in one of LA's hottest restaurants. Her life gets flipped upside down when she finds out  that most of her life has been a lie and she is now the recipient of a strange inheritance. This is a fast read which will suck you in and have you quickly turning the pages.


Friday Night Lights: I am not a huge football fan at all BUT this book peaked my interest after a friend of mine told me about growing up in Texas during the time this story took place. I had to find out more. It's a true story about high school football heroes in Texas and how racial and social issues divided a community, the pressure these young high school boys had to achieve victory while inspiring and shaping their community. No pressure, right?  


Party Girl: This is the first book in Rachel Hollis's Girl Book Series. After I read it, I was hooked! It's light reading and made me giggle like a school girl. Being from Los Angeles, I found it hilarious to read about the typical stereotypes of people's impression of the "rich and famous" that live here. There is a sweet and innocent love story attached to it that makes it that much better to read!


Sweet Girl: This is the second book in the series and highlights one of the BFFs of the main character in the first book, Party Girl. 



Smart Girl: This is the third and final book in the series, highlighting the last girlfriend in the group. It is a fast and fun read, with different perspectives and interests of the characters I fell in love with.




BOOKS IN MY QUEUE TO READ:

Girl, Wash Your Face: Can you tell, I am a Rachel Hollis fan? When this book hit the shelves, it went on my must read list immediately. Being successful in all the different roles we play in our lives as women can be overwhelming and at times lonely. This book brings light to all negative self talk that can destroy our self confidence and squashes it like a bug!


Green Ninja: Jim Larsen is an inspiring speaker who has written his first book about pursuing your life dreams and lifting the limitations you set on yourself. He discusses 7 steps to take to awake the fire inside your belly and become a warrior in your life. I can't wait to be inspired and motivated to make the changes.


The Good Luck Sister: I want to read this book because it is a continuation of the characters' stories in Lost and Found Sisters. It will be an easy read and I can get lost in a good book once again.


Looking for more reading ideas? Check out my Summer Reading List 2017 too!

What is on your list for your summer reading pleasure? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below. Who knows, it may be added to my list next!

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