Hygge in the Classroom

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Hey, y'all! Have you heard of hygge yet? In short, hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish word describing the feeling of coziness and togetherness. It's warm drinks, fuzzy socks, cozy blankets, a roaring fire, and great company. It's all the things that make a cold winters' day comfortable and warm.

So how do you get this feeling in the classroom? It's not like we can light up the fireplace in our classrooms, but there are a few ways we can make our rooms cozy and warm, and make it feel a little homier throughout the winter months.

1. Use cozy lighting.
This cold be lamps, string lights, fairy lights. opening the blinds on the windows, using LED candles, etc. Using soft yellow lights is much cozier than using the harsh white lights. Your students will be calmer, too. It's hard to be super hyper crazy when the lights are turned down low.

2. Youtube a crackling fireplace.
My students absolutely love when I "turn on the fireplace." Especially when it's rainy or snowy outside. Many of them even choose to work on the floor in front of it. And I LOVE the eye rolls I get when they come in from recess freezing and I tell them to warm up by the "fire."

3. Get comfortable. 
Hygge is all about coziness. Wear your favorite sweater. Have a "shoes off/fuzzy socks" day. Have a pajama day, or a "bring a blanket" day. Lay on the floor to read together. Add some comfy pillows to your library area. However you you choose to do it, make it a point to get comfy.

4. Enjoy the good times.
Read a book together, allowing students to lay down or get comfortable in their own way. Play games together. Laugh. Take time to enjoy your students and each of their quirky personalities.

This week, I startled one of my students while playing a group game. His reaction had the entire class (including myself) rolling with laughter. I could have told the class to settle down, but the shared joy was such a bonding experience for all of us, it would have done my students a disservice to squash their excitement.

5. Play music in the background. 
Music is a powerful tool in setting the mood. There are so many different online music streaming tools that there is no doubt you can find just the right one to set the mood for your classroom. Our current favorite is Amazon Prime Music's Calm Down Kids playlist. It brings the voice level down by several decibels. I'm also a fan of the nature sounds and holiday instrumental music. (Although with the nature sounds, anything with rain or flowing water will make everyone need to use the restroom!)

However you choose to do it, adding a little hygge into your daily routine can pay big dividends. Your students (and you) will be calmer and happier. You will have more time to get learning done and bond with each other. You will leave work with more satisfaction, and you'll be better able to handle the stressed that come your way from parents, admin, and the like.

What other ways can you add hygge into your classroom? Leave your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for more great resources coming soon.

Stay sweet,

Teaching Measurement in 2nd Grade

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Hey y'all! We are rolling right along here with our math stations and the kids are loving them. I asked one of my littles how she likes the stations we use. She said that they are "way harder" than the curriculum used last year in first grade, but she likes it so much more. #meltmyheart

This two week measurement unit that we have coming up is perfect for any time of the school year. The first week is spent measuring objects using inches. The second week, students learn about the metric system and when to use different types of measurement tools.

Each station has direction cards so students know what to do and recording sheets for math notebooks. Stations are our favorite times of the day by far.

And, as always, direction cards, lesson plans, task cards, games, and recording sheets are included.

You can check out the entire unit here. Stay tuned for more great resources coming soon and have a wonderful week!

Stay sweet,

Bulletin Boards Made Simple

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Hey y'all! Raise your hand if you absolutely LOVE changing out bulletin boards. Whether your hand went up or not, we can probably all agree that changing out our boards can be time consuming. Well no more!

I have two bulletin boards in the hallway and one the classroom that I change out regularly. Sometimes they have other class work, but mostly I use these seasonal boards because they're so quick to flip.

These pics were taken for Teachers Pay Teachers. In real life, I have a string going across the bulletin board with clips on it. The kids can easily take down their old writing prompt and put up the new one. All I have to do is change out the letters.

Each month's bulletin board has a writing prompt to go with it and a blank template you could use for just about any prompt you choose.

With all the different boards to choose from, there is no shortage of ideas.

I especially love adding embellishments like glitter on the reindeer noses or on the pumpkin stems. 

Your students could also give their snowmen or hearts a few extra "accessories" with scarves and hats or stickers and glitter.

I just love the simplicity of each set. The writing prompts are simple enough to do with a sub, or to slip in to any extra time you have one day.

And of course the kids love seeing their work highlighted and on display, no matter how easy it was to put together.

To check out any of the bulletin boards pictured, simply click on the image. You can also pick up the entire year's worth of bulletin boards by clicking here. The bundle is a steal!

Anyway, I hope you got some new ideas for decorating your classroom. Have a wonderful week and stay sweet!

Teacher Self-Care Ideas

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Hey y'all. Happy October! This time of year is usually high on the list of many teachers because of the cooler weather, the pumpkin everything, and all the exciting holidays. It's also the most depressing time of year for teachers as far as the school year goes. 

We're excited about all the things happening, but the reality of the school demands, testing, student behaviors, conferences, pressures from admin and everything else builds up, leaving many of us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. We are entering the disillusionment phase of the school year, but  there are ways you can combat these feelings.

Taking time to take care of yourself is critical this month. The spring semester will fly by. September was a whirlwind of expectations and beginning of the year testing. NOW is the time to take care of you!

To make it even easier, I've already put together a calendar for you. And it's printable! Just click the image (or here) to download your own. My idea doesn't work for you on that day? Switch it with another one or make up one of your own.

I hope this helps you take time for yourself this month and gets you through this crazy time of the year. Have a wonderful week and stay sweet!

A Free Fall Literacy Center

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Happy fall, y'all! This week's post is short and sweet, just like fall weather in central Texas!

I made a little write the room activity for my 2nd graders to review when to use "a" before a word and when to use "an." I loved it so much that I made it a freebie. You can get your own copy of it here.

What are you working on next with your students? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. :) Have a great week and stay sweet. 

Teaching Graphing in 2nd Grade

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Hey y'all. It seems like every year I teach graphing. but it's almost always bar graphs or pictographs in kindergarten and first grade. By 2nd grade, we introduce line graphs and line plots, both of which are always super boring in the math books the district provides. So of course I had to make it more interesting!

In this two week unit, we spend the first week learning about bar and pictographs. Their easy for students to make and understand, and most students are familiar with them by 2nd grade. If you teach first grade, you could use the first week of this unit to introduce graphs to your students. 

We start off each week making graphs as a whole class, then students visit a series of 6 stations to apply and practice these skills. 

The second week, students learn about line graphs and line plots, also visiting a series of stations. Students do write the rooms to practice reading graphs and use different data sets to create their own graphs. 

At the end of the of each week, students work in teams to gather data on a topic they (or you) choose and build their own graphs. Every class I've ever had has loved making their own graphs on chart paper. Something about using the teacher's chart paper makes this activity magical! :-p 

Student direction cards are included with each station, so when your students go to their station and suddenly forget all the directions, they can refer back to them and answer their own question. This leaves you to get to the actual teaching and not repeating! 

These stations are simple but powerful. With the self-directedness of each station, your students will not only learn the material but will also gain confidence and independence. The best part for me as the teacher is that I am not competing for students' attention and I can actually see who understands what's going on and who doesn't. It's a win-win. 

To check out the whole unit, click here. And you can find more 2nd grade math curriculum here. I hope you have a wonderful week and stay tuned for more teaching ideas and resources coming soon.

Stay sweet,

How to Run a Reading Block

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Hey y'all! We've talked a lot about how we run our math and science blocks, but we haven't talked much about reading. Since it's so incredibly important, let's go there.

Over the years, I've taught reading several different ways. I've taught Daily 5 the way the first book says to do it. I've taught Daily 5 the way the revised book says to do it. I've modified their way, done "must do/may do" centers, taught literacy whole group (definitely not my favorite), and with all of that, I have found what works for us.

Daily 5 or literacy station type blocks are great. I love that only a few kids are in each station at a time and students rotate through everything regularly. Usually, my class does great at this in the beginning, but then they start to slack off on the whole "level 0 or 1" voice and things become harder to manage. Especially after introducing stations like "read to someone." I like the idea, but the management did not work for every class for the whole year.

With rotating stations, some students didn't have enough time to complete tasks or really get into their book before it was time to move. With "must do/may do" stations, it was hard to tell who was actually on task and who was faking it really well. Just being honest here.

So...we're using a reading workshop model.

The Reading Part
We start off class with a close read. We read the same book all week (give or take a day) and look at different aspects of the writing. For instance, with Giraffes Can't Dance, we did a picture walk; we asked who, what, when, where, why questions; we talked about the story line; we identified rhyming words, rhythm, and tone; and we probably could have done much, much more. In our mini lesson, we talk about how we know these things and students are encouraged to look for these things in their own reading.

Students then have about 30 minutes to read independently. They are set up with their book boxes full of books (3 picture books, 1 chapter book, and 2 free choice books), reading mats, and reading notebooks where they are encouraged to take notes about what they are reading.

While they read, I work with a small guided reading group on targeted skills. Our guided reading lessons consist of a mixture of things we're focusing on in our pacing guides and skills I see my students need. For instance, one group of students is working on blending. We'll focus on blending the words in our story or poem, then we may also look at rhyming words or the 5 W's. Whatever it is this group really needs.

After about 25-30 minutes, we regroup on the carpet and talk about things we noticed as we were reading. Were we able to identify some of the things we discussed in our mini lesson?

The Language Part
Next, we move into a mini lesson about grammar or spelling. We typically have one thing we are focusing on for the week, like identifying verbs or when to add -s or -es to the end of a word. We review each day, but have a different activity for every day of the week.

At the beginning of the week, we'll complete an interactive notebook page about the topic. Throughout the rest of the week, we'll do a write the room, highlight the rule or spelling pattern in a passage we read, do a Mad Libs to review several things at a time, or play a game. This part takes about 30 minutes.

The Closing
With the time left in our reading block (10-20 minutes depending on how quickly we transition), I  read a chapter or two of a book to the class. This is where I get to introduce a new series book or read a "soon to be a movie" book to them. We absolutely LOVE this time of our day.

What About Fluency and Writing?
So, what's missing from the Daily 5 model is "read to someone" and "work on writing."

We have a dedicated writing time during the day, so our direct writing instruction happens during that time and during morning message, with writing integrated throughout different subjects all day long. Students have time to practice writing what they think about their reading during independent reading time, and justifying their thinking in math, science, and social studies.

Our class goal this year is to focus on fluency. During our intervention time, I work with students who need specific skill support, and the rest of the class uses this time for fluency practice (aka "read to someone). They play fluency games, time each other, read poems, work on expression, and so much more.

So new teachers, or teachers needing something new, don't be afraid to try out a few different setups. It's not all going to come to you at once. One district I worked for was all in on Daily 5. One was all in on whole group. I feel this setup gives us a happy medium of both worlds--not too much whole group, not too much small group, not too noisy, not too quiet. And definitely not too much independent time. Because when they have too much independent time, there are too many opportunities to create chaos.

It takes time to find your reading class nirvana. Take the time to find it, and don't be too hard on yourself if something isn't working the way you want it. Reevaluate, make a plan, and move on. You will find your just right setup exactly when you need it. Hopefully, my experience and ideas will help you come up with some of your own.

Have a fantastic week and stay sweet,

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