Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Swap and Hop: Have Some Time to Fill? Mandy Has a Freebie for You!

A big Sub Hub welcome to Mandy of Mandy's Tips for Teachers!

You can find my Blog Swap and Hop at Lessons with Laughter.

I am so excited to be posting over here at Sub Hub! We are participating in the Top Teachers' Blog Swap and Hop. What a great opportunity to find new ideas and new blogs to follow!  

Before getting started, I want to take the time to introduce myself. My name is Mandy and I am the
author of Mandy's Tips for Teachers. I am getting ready to enter my 10th year of teaching. Typing that amazes me. I still feel like I am learning so much sometimes!! This year I will be teaching second grade, but I have taught second, third, and fourth grade in the past.

Here is a picture of my baby girl and me!

And, this is my blog: 

My post today is about time fillers and killers when subbing. Before I started teaching in my current district I was a a substitute in a different district.  Even though I had spent a good time with the kids in the class I subbed in, I hated when the plans ran short or when there was an odd few minutes. I have put together a few simple games that require very few materials (if any) to fill the time. Some are just for fun and can be a reward and others can be academic.

The three activities in the packet are:

Silent Ball. This game is a great way to end the day as a reward or spend a rainy day recess. Both boys and girls love it! The only material needed is a soft Nerf or squishy ball. I used one of those stress balls that was shaped like an apple.

Four Corners. Classic game with an academic twist.

Guess My Magic Number. This is a math game that kids love and develops number sense! Win-win situation!

Click on the picture to get a copy of all the three games and directions!

Also, a few months ago I blogged about how I organize all of my emergency sub materials into a handy binder. I didn't want to recycle an old post (it just didn't seem nice!), but thought it might be of some interest here.  If you would like to read more about it here.

I hope you enjoyed my post and find the games meaningful and useful. If you are not yet a follower of my blog, I am formally inviting you to come over check it out! Thanks so much for being with me here today. Enjoy the rest of your blog hopping adventure!

Thanks for having me, Rachel!

Monday, June 25, 2012

When Subbing, Set the Tone Early

Substitute teaching can be quite the tricky business. The kind of day you are going to have is often determined in the first moments of meeting the students and class starting. You must find that balance of being firm but not mean, friendly but not easy.

The first thing I do before the students even arrive is read and reread the lesson plans. And then I read them again. I try to break the day into chunks between breaks to make them more manageable for me to remember. There was an old commercial with the slogan, "Never let them see you sweat." In substitute teaching that means to always act like you are in control and completely know what is going on. In some classes, if they smell fear or lack of confidence, they will attack like sharks. Knowing every detail of the lesson plans will help you at least pretend to know what you are doing.

Once the bell rings, I always greet the students at the door with a smile and a "good morning." Sometimes I meet them with a high five, handshake, or fist bump. As the students enter the room, watch them carefully to determine their moods and energy levels. If they seem to be putzing around, remind them what they are to be doing. If you don't know the exact morning routine, you can announce a general statement such as: "Let's take care of all your morning business," or "Don't forget your morning routine." Notice the students who are doing a good job, ask their names, and say, "I love the way Mary has taken care of her business and has gotten right to work."

Be prepared to field a barrage of questions. I try to never answer individual student's questions unless the question only applies to them. If it is a general question, I tell them I will let the whole class know in just a bit.

As they are settled into their desks, I get their attention and do a brief introduction and a general preview of the day. I make sure they know who I am, what the expectations are, and a schedule for the day (especially if there is anything different). I tend not to be super strict and tell the students that I don't mind some quiet talking as long as work is getting done. But then be sure to follow-up if work is not getting done. I also write most things on the board for those who are not listening and ask again later. I can just refer them back to the board. And I always leave some time for questions because, depending on the age, they will want to know all sorts of things about you. During this introduction time, you should make sure your tone and mannerisms are clear, firm, and inviting.

If you are using a classroom management system such as stickers, stamps, or hole punches, start that early in the day. Set the tone so that most students are getting the reward if possible at first, then get more stingy with them so you don't have the whole class earning a reward at the end of the day (unless, of course, they all truly deserve one).

In my experience, when I start the day off this way, the rest of the day seems to just flow into place. Of course, there will be bumps and hiccups along the way, but setting the tone right off the bat will get you off to a great start.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reading Sequencing and a Diary of Worm Freebie

Sequencing is an important reading comprehension skill for students to practice. It's even a reading and writing Common Core standard in many grade levels. And it's a skill I love to teach since there are so many fun ways to practice it. You can have students act it out, retell, draw comic strips, practice using time words, and so on.

Back more years than I would like to remember when my first child was born, Diary of a Worm was one of the first children's books I discovered as a parent. I loved the blend of humor, fact, fiction, and environmentalism and read it to my daughter. She loved it just as much as I did, and we read that book over and over. Then when I started graduate school, student teaching, and subbing, I remembered the book and carried it with me everywhere I went. My poor copy has been so well loved that its cover is coming off, and pages have been mended many times.

Fast forward to 2011 when I started Sub Hub and began writing free lesson plans. One of the first themes I chose was an author focus on Doreen Cronin... all because of my love of Diary of a Worm. You can find those free 2nd Grade Doreen Cronin Emergency Sub Plans here.

I thought I would revisit my old friend and make a new freebie for you. So, here is a free Diary of a Worm Sequencing/Timeline Activity. I wrote the activity so it can be done as either a sequencing activity with the events getting glued inside the worm body segments or a timeline activity with the events getting glued on the provided timeline. If you do this with older students, you can just give them the blank sequence or timeline sheet and have them write in events from the story. The super cute graphics were done my fabulous friend Michelle at 3am Teacher. Visit her at her 3am Teacher blog and her Teachers Pay Teachers store.

And if you don't own a copy of this amazing book, why not? Ha! No, really... it's a great stand-by read-aloud with so many activities you can do with it. Here is the Amazon link, if you need a place to buy a copy:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Keepin' Busy

There's a reason why parents don't look forward to the summer nearly as much as teachers do. Summertime with two children at home can get long and boring. And long and boring makes for a lot of grumpiness at best... and troublemaking at worst. Aside from the schedule I try to keep during the summer, I also try to plan various outings and projects to keep my children busy. The problem with that is it can get to be quite expensive if you are not careful. So, here is my advice to keep your children busy (and you sane and not bankrupt).

Go to the library. I love the library! And not just for checking out books. Local libraries often have story times and other activities geared to different age levels. I have taken my children to plays, presentations, and craft times at our local library. And those events are usually free.

Hit the park. Although here in Texas, you have to plan when you go around the heat of the day, parks are a great place to take the kids. You can take a picnic and just let them romp on the playground or find a park with hike and bike trails. Plus, this gets the kids outdoors, which I believe in strongly.

Go swimming. A wise friend of mine once said, "Cranky baby? Just add water." Most kids love to swim. Scope out your local pool, splash park, river, lake, or beach... and go often.

Arts and crafts. You are a teacher. I know you have tons of crafty things around your house. Gather the supplies together and challenge your children to create something.

Encourage the imagination. I don't know about your children, but my kids love to play with things that are not toys. Give my son a laundry basket, and he's occupied for hours. Cardboard tubes and boxes are more favorites. And my 13-year-old loves the duct tape!

Have a staycation. I am lucky to live in a very touristy city with tons of things to do, many of which are free or very inexpensive. If you live in such a city, check out the Convention and Visitors Bureau website. You may discover things about your area you never knew. And they often have great coupons and deals too. If there is not a CVB in your area, you can just Google search for things to do. My family personally loves daytrips too, so that can expand your options.

Sign up for Groupon (or other deal services). Groupon is great because you choose your area, and they send you local deals. This allows you to take advantage of all your area has to offer without spending and arm and leg. I have gotten great deals on ice cream, restaurants, and attractions.

Get a season pass. If you have a favorite local attraction, it is usually most economical to get a season pass. The pass often pays for itself in 2-3 visits so it can be very worth it. My family has a membership to our local zoo because we love to go often. Plus, the passes give us discounts on food and souvenirs.

So get out and get busy. It will make you and your kids happier this summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 3 Things To Make a Sub's (and Your) Life Easier

It may never have crossed your mind. Or you may not even care. But there are some simple things you can do to make a sub's life easier. And if the sub's life is easier, then your return will be easier as well. So, it is in everyone's interest to try a few things. Here are my top three things a teacher can do to make a sub day go more smoothly.

1. Lesson Plans! By far the most important thing to me is to leave meaningful lesson plans. Make sure your lesson plans cover your curriculum and don't include too much (if any) busy work. Students know when an assignment is busy work, and I guarantee it makes classroom management much more difficult. Make sure the lesson plans fill the time allotted for each subject or class and even include some extras for those just-in-case times. Yes, good subs will be able to wing it, but as we all know, you are not always guaranteed to have a good sub. Make those lesson plans as detailed as possible. Note things such as where students are to turn in assignments, if they are allowed to work in pairs or groups, etc. And please, please, please don't ever write the sentence: "The students know what to do." I guarantee you students either don't know what to do or pretend not to know when a sub is there. In my experience, free time and unknowns are the times when things can turn disastrous, so eliminating those two things with good lesson plans go a long way toward things running smoothly.

2. Leave a seating chart. It makes attendance easy, and helps the sub be able to learn names easier. And if possible, have nametags on desks (I realize teachers of higher grades don't do this). It makes it more difficult for students to pull the old desk switcheroo trick.

3. Leave helpful names and phone numbers. Make sure to list which students are dependable helpers and a list of helpful teachers as well as other names and numbers such as the office, nurse, discipline person, etc. That way as problems arise, the sub will know who to ask for help.

I know that if an absence is unexpected, these things aren't always possible. But if you know ahead of time that you will be out, then doing these three things will solve many of the problems that could and do arise when a sub is in the room. And remember, the easier you make things for the sub, the better shape your students and room will be in when you return.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Schedule in the Summer? YES!

I stumbled out of bed this morning headed straight for the coffee pot. Before I could reach the promised land, however, I was waylaid by my 8-year-old son who wanted to "show me all the writing" he had done this morning. His bouncing up and down and eager face made me unable to resist. He proceeded to show me two short songs and a comic strip he had written in his journal before I even had a chance to get out of bed. After proudly showing me his products, he announced, "Now, I will practice my math facts!" Here he is playing Math Bingo on the iPad (I'll tell more about that in a minute). Notice, he's still in his pajamas. Ha!

No, my child is not some mutant eager to do any school work without being asked. Usually homework time is a power struggle. In fact, his behavior surprised me so much that I knew I needed to blog about it. You see, yesterday, we sat down as a family to make a very flexible summer schedule. With my hubby and I both being teachers, the whole family is home for the summer, and it is VERY easy to slip into the sleep-until-noon, stay-in-pjs-all-day, veg-in-front-of the-TV kind of mood. I didn't want my family's brains and bodies to turn to mush and also wanted to make sure I had time for blogging. Plus, I am a firm believer that children thrive with at least some structure, so we made a schedule. We listed all the things we might want to do on a daily and weekly basis and then plugged them into time slots. Here is what we came up with:

9-10 a.m.   Exercise, Outdoor Play Time
10-12         Blogging, School Work, Learning Time
1-4 p.m.     Inside Play, Nap, Free Choice, or House Projects Time
7-8 p.m.     Exercise, Outdoor Play Time

I told you, it's very loose and flexible. We kept things in mind like: we are living in Texas, so all outdoor activities need to be done in the morning or evening. I went over the expectations with the kids who both (the 8-year-old and a 13-year-old) seemed excited by it. Then they told me, we had to get supplies.

I knew the educational things we needed to work on were: reading (like I've said before, both kids love to read), writing, and math facts. We had gone to a library sale Friday morning and came home with 27 books for $9.25 so they had plenty to read. And with my Reading Log, I figured we were set in the reading category.

For math facts, I took them to Lakeshore Learning looking for a fun alternative to flash cards. My son chose Learning Wrap-Ups, and we bought the addition and multiplication ones. But they come in various topics and for various levels. You loop the string around the key matching the first number up with the answer to the problem. My son's favorite is the multiplication set since they just started introducing multiplication at the end of his second grade school year. I showed him a few solving strategies such as arrays, skip counting, and the 9s hand trick, and he is hooked! He has sticky notes filled with arrays to help him figure out the harder multiplication problems. If you would like to order some, here is the Amazon link:

Next, I thought about how much my son likes to play on the iPad. I knew there must be amazing apps out there, so I went to a group of teacher/blogger friends to ask their advice. I got wonderful suggestions! We downloaded the free version of Rocket Math and Math Bingo for 99¢. He is OB.SESSED with Rocket Math! The app has you earn money to build rockets by completing sets of math facts. You choose the operation. Then you can blast off your rocket into space to complete missions. For example, the first mission is finding even numbers. And Math Bingo is lots of fun too... and the best part for me is that he can play it on his own.

Finally, for writing, I am firm believer that if you give students choice, they will love writing. So, we went to Target, and I let my son pick out a notebook (he chose a Mario one) and pencils (he chose a set of red, yellow, and blue mechanical ones with replaceable erasers). And I told him he could write about whatever he wanted in that notebook. That's where this morning comes in. He wrote a song about breakfast, one about The Avengers, and a comic strip about The Avengers. And he was excited!!!!

Now, I am curious to see if this gung-ho-edness continues throughout the summer, but so far, so good. I am thrilled that he is willing and excited to do educational activities!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Is the Time for... Reading

If your house is anything like mine in the summer, than you have plenty of reading that is happening. So many places offer summer reading programs for kids. My Frugal Adventures has a nice list of places offering reading programs this summer. But there are probably also lots of local places that have summer reading programs. I know our library has one as well as some local restaurants.

Also if you are like me, you have trouble keeping up with the different reading logs that get misplaced all over the house. So, my solution has been to create my own central Reading Log that lives posted on my refigerator. Then we can record the information all in one place. Then it can be transferred to the different lists at the necessary times. Yes, it means having to write the information down an additional time, but the time it saves me in digging for the forms everyday is worth it to me.

I am making the Reading Log available to anyone else it might help for free. Reading helps prevent that summer slide, and the reading programs offer nice incentives for kids to keep reading over the summer.
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