A Holiday Reminder Of Why We Do What We Do!

     Happy Holiday Friends! I hope you are finding time to relax, rejuvenate, and rejoice in all that is beautiful in your lives! I have to share with you all something that happened to me over the holidays which completely validated for me that every ounce of energy I put into my classroom and my students is worth it.
     I was sitting at home on Christmas Eve morning with my husband enjoying my morning coffee and binge watching NETFLIX, when I got a text message from a parent. Attached to the text was a picture of a child-written note to Santa. The note was difficult to make out, but then again, when it was written it had been meant for Santa's eyes only, not to be photographed by mom and then sent as an attachment to the teacher. So, mom explained in the text what the letter was all about...

     The text read... I had to share with you this letter that we found rolled up with our elf on the shelf last night! Ben asked for the few things that he wanted but then added that he wanted a picture of Mrs. Romo!!! Merry Christmas!!!

OK!!!!! CUE THE TEARS!!!! Friends...This is not a child that hangs all over me every day, constantly sitting right up front, trying to hold my hand...and this is not a child who I am on top of all day long to get him to do what he needs to do. This is a quiet, well behaved, doing-what-he-needs to be doing child. The every day, come to school, hoping to learn and have a good day child. The child who observes your triumphs and your errors, your best days and your worst days, and loves you anyway. The kind of child who knows what it really takes to keep a room full of firsties afloat day in and day out, because he watches, he listens, he processes. For this child to make such a request to Santa, means the absolute world to me. The ultimate proof, in my opinion, that my job performance is right on target. 
Needless to say, Santa came through for Ben this Christmas...
and Ben came through for me!

As you go back to school after the holidays, keep your eyes peeled for your Ben. I promise, he or she will be quietly watching, taking in all that you do, and recognizing your amazing ability to do it so well! 

(Elf on the Shelf pictures contributed by my dear friend Emily from Polka Dots Please.)


Have You Tried Plickers In Your Classroom Yet? (You Will After You Read This!)

Plickers is a great way to use digital exit tickets in your classroom! Use the plickers app and cards as a quick and easy formative assessment tool. Students can't get enough of it!
     Ok Friends! So this blog post has been LONG overdue! I almost feel like I need to apologize to all of you for not getting this out to you sooner, because if you are not aware of this FABULOUS app...you are SO missing out! The app is called Plickers, and my students BEG to use it ALL THE TIME! It is such a versatile app that it can be used for any subject, it only takes mere minutes to complete the activity, and the app compiles all your data for you! YES... YOU READ THAT RIGHT...IT WAS NOT SOME CRAZY TYPO...THE APP COMPILES ALL YOUR DATA FOR YOU!!!
I will give you a moment to let that sink in!

Now, let me tell you a little more about this wonderous thing called Plickers. It is an app that you download onto your Smartphone. Your students do not need any kind of device to participate. You enter your classlist into the app and assign them each a card number. You can then print out the Plickers cards for free (or you can buy sets of cards from Amazon). Each card is unique and is labeled with the answer choices A, B, C, and D placed in different directions on the face of the card. This makes it very easy for students to provide answers to your questions confidently without worrying about what their neighbor is choosing...because they can't figure out what their neighbor is choosing!

Plickers is a great way to use digital exit tickets in your classroom! Use the plickers app and cards as a quick and easy formative assessment tool. Students can't get enough of it!

Now, like I said earlier, this app can be used for any subject! It is just a great way to get a quick assessment of student understanding in key concepts and skills. It is also a great way to do surveys and voting in your classroom. We use it quite a bit in math to help determine which concepts need to be revisited, and in science and social studies as a pre assessment of skills. We also like to use it during Morning Meeting to answer our Question Of The Day when the answers lend themselves to a true/false format or a multiple choice format.

Plickers is a great way to use digital exit tickets in your classroom! Use the plickers app and cards as a quick and easy formative assessment tool. Students can't get enough of it!

Once you know what you want to assess, you log into Plickers either on your phone or on the web and type your questions in. Then, when you are ready to assess, ask your question, (if you have a Smartboard it can be displayed live on the screen), and you use the camera on your Smartphone to scan the students responses.

Plickers is a great way to use digital exit tickets in your classroom! Use the plickers app and cards as a quick and easy formative assessment tool. Students can't get enough of it!

Scanning the responses is the fun part! If you are using the Live View on your Smartboard, the students can see when their answer has been scanned, because a checkmark will appear next to their name. This way they know to put down their card. You will know that their card has been scanned, because their name will appear on the screen of your phone. It only takes a matter of minutes to scan the entire class.

Plickers is a great way to use digital exit tickets in your classroom! Use the plickers app and cards as a quick and easy formative assessment tool. Students can't get enough of it!

As you are scanning, the app is already collecting and calculating data! You can see right on your phone who has the correct answers and who does not, and who still needs to answer. On the Smartboard, you can choose to show the students the correct answer and the layout and percentage of the answers you received...without actually identifying who answered correctly and who did not. This data then stays on the app so that you can revisit it and use it to help plan future instruction and assessment. The other really nice thing about the Plickers app is that the website is very helpful and walks you through every aspect of setting this up in your classroom so that you can use it successfully!
Yay Plickers
Have you tried Plickers in your classroom yet? I'd love to hear all about it! If you haven't yet...please come back and let me know how it goes when you do! 


How Morning Meeting Looks In Our Classroom!

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

   So I would have to say, of all the parts of my day, Morning Meeting is my all time favorite! Part of the appeal is knowing that each morning is like a fresh piece of notebook paper- everyone gets a fresh start- no matter what did or didn't happen the day before in the classroom. But I think an even bigger part of the appeal for me is the reality of the impact that morning meeting can have on my students. For many of them, the greetings they get at school are the first kind greetings they are getting for the day. For many of them, school is their safe place. For many of them, the classroom is the place they count on to provide them with their daily dose of structure, validation, and acceptance.
This is what Morning Meeting looks like in our classroom... 
When the students come in each morning they unpack at their lockers and come into the classroom. They turn in any notes, lunch money, or homework they have and then find a place in the morning meeting circle. (At our school we do not start the day with morning work. It is the philosophy of our school that all students should begin each day with a soft landing. The majority of our students walk to school and have breakfast at school as well. Many students (our building is K-6) attend various morning study and counseling groups before coming to their classrooms each day. Once the morning bell rings, I take attendance, by greeting each child with "Good Morning ____ , I am glad you are here today!", and then our morning meeting can begin.

Morning Meeting songs, tips, and tricks to get your day off to a great start!

     We start off each morning with some songs to liven things up! A couple good morning songs and of course OUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITE "I SAID BOOM CHICKA BOOM!"  If you aren't familiar with "I Said Boom Chicka Boom", it is an old camping/scouting song that involves echo voices and a whole lot of silliness...just what the doctor ordered to wake up a bunch of sleepy six year olds at 8:30 in the morning!
You can check our our Morning Meeting Songs HERE

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

     After we sing our songs (and giggle our heads off),  we say our greetings to each other. We do this while we are still sitting in our Morning Meeting circle. We use our friend Tapioca Tiger to help us with our good mornings each day. Whomever is holding Tapioca will turn to their neighbor and while making eye contact, greet them by "Good Morning _______", and then give them a compliment or a well wish for the day. (For example, "Good Morning Ben, I hope you have a great day." "Good Morning Addy, thank you. You look very nice today." It absolutely melts my heart to watch and listen to them give each other genuine compliments each morning. I JUST LOVE MY FIRSTIES! (insert tears and sniffles here.) Tapioca is often heard adding his two-cents as well!

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

     When we finish our greetings, then we move into our regular rug seats for the Morning Message. The children love the morning message because each day it is different, each day they get to share the pen, and each day one lucky firstie gets to take it home to share it with their family! (What family wouldn't want this huge chart hanging on their living room wall?) I love the morning message because it is a great way to do a quick review or introduction of the skills we are doing in class, all while incorporating our schedule or plan for the day and any important news I need to discuss with them.

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration
     Then it is time for The Joke Of The Day! I have been doing The Joke Of The Day now for as long as I can remember...well to put it into perspective...I have a student this year whose mother had me in first grade....GASP! (I know...impossible, right?!) and she still remembers doing Joke Of The Day!) Anyway, it is an absolute highlight of each day! I put on my "joke glasses" (I have a treasure chest full of different ones) and I choose one student to wear the "student joke glasses"- (Target for the win!) I read the joke and the student helper calls on students to guess the answer. We then discuss what the joke meant and why it was funny. I mean, because honestly...who doesn't love a good joke?

You can check out our Joke Of The Day Set HERE

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

     So, after Joke Of The Day, we then move on to Fact Of The Day! These are "Weird But True"  Outrageous Facts, so they require us to wear some outrageously "smart" glasses and a headband with "brainwaves" shooting out of it! (Also, Target for the win!) These are a great tie in to science, health, and social studies, as well as just plain old good for making you think a little harder each morning!

 You can check out our Fact Of The Day Set HERE 

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

     We then move on to The Advice Of The Day. These are life lessons written in kid language that we can think about, talk about, and plan to teach others. My firsties really love figuring out the meanings and trying to come up with different examples to use to explain them. I love listening to their conversation abilities grow as they discuss The Advice Of The Day each morning. These are great practice for comprehension and inferencing, as well as speaking and dicussion skills!

You can check out our Advice Of The Day Set HERE

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

     To round out our "of the days", we do our Question Of The Day. This is a getting to know you question that gives us a little insight into what makes our classmates tick! I press the Q &A button (it plays the Jeopardy theme song) and then I ask the kids the Question Of The Day. They put on their best I am thinking poses (scratching heads, rubbing chins, looking up at the ceiling) until the music stops, then I pick names randomly out of our "Really Cool Kids" bag until everyone, including me, has a chance to answer the question. Sometimes, instead of everyone answering out loud, we take it one step further, and write our answers in our writing journals.

You can check out our Question Of The Day HERE
You can check out our Writing Journals HERE

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

          We end our morning meeting every day with the Pledge of Allegiance and Our Class Pledge. We spent a great deal of time at the beginning of the year learning about the meaning of the words in the Pledge of Allegiance and the words in Our Class Pledge so that when we stand and recite these each day, our words have meaning and purpose.

      You can check out Our Class Pledge HERE

     I like to tie my morning meeting in with my day in some way so that my day flows nicely. So whenever possible, I connect the day's lessons into the morning message through a skill review or introduction, or connect our journal writing for the day with the Question Of The Day. Occasionally, I tie my science, health or social studies lesson to the Fact Of The Day, or even connect the daily read aloud with our morning routine.

Recently, one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE READ ALOUDS actually tied in perfectly with the Question Of The Day..."What is something your family does together that you love?" This was a FANTASTIC segue into The Tub People by Pam Conrad
Have you read it? It is a must read!

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

These little tub people live on the edge of the tub. When the boy is not playing with them they have adventures together. The book talks all about what they love to do together. But, during the story, the Tub Child gets lost down the drain and the family is very worried and sad until he returns again. My firsties could not get enough of this story...edge of your seat I tell you!

You can find The Tub People by Pam Conrad HERE

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

The sequel to the story is The Tub Grandfather by Pam Conrad 
In this book, the family finds the Tub Grandfather under the radiator covered with dust. He has long been forgotten, but the Tub Grandmother could not be happier to have found him. They reminisce and dance and the family is all happy to be together again.

(This book is actually out of print, but can be found used on Amazon.)

Morning Meeting ideas, greetings, activities, rituals, songs, tips, tricks, and inspiration

As for the little tub people in the pictures, I have a really good story behind those. So many moons ago, when I was in college pursuing my Bachelors Degree in Education, I was given an assignment to make props to go along with a story. I chose to use the book The Tub People. Having a very talented, artistic mother, who,when I was a child, I had sat along side trying to imitate for many hours on end while she painted on ceramics, and wood, and fabric, and while she sewed clothes and quilts and costumes...I knew exactly what I wanted to make! I had my dad cut out the wood I needed and I borrowed the painting supplies from my mom. I got to work. I made a model bathtub with a shower curtain, a replica of the soap they played on in the story and the washcloth that they used as a raft. I even made the Tub Grandfather to use in my future classroom with the sequel book because I loved the story so much....
I bet you think you can guess the ending of this story right?
The professor raved about the project and put it on display for everyone to look at and gave me an A+ ...
What actually happened was I got called into the professor's office to answer questions about where I actually got the little people for this project, because she felt there was no way possible that I made them. ( I reminded her that this was the third class I had with her, and that she knew what kind of student I was, she know what kind of work I produced, and she knew what kind of character I had.) She reminded me that she took that all into consideration, but she had even asked other professors and they all agreed these were too well done to be handmade. WHAT???!!! She told me she had to think about it some more and in the end, I got the project back with an 
A- ...
with a note..."the minus is because I am still not sure these were not store bought."

I tell you this story as a way of reminding you... 
Everything you do as a teacher shapes someone in some way. 
Everything you do as a teacher leaves an impression on someone in some way.
Wouldn't you rather the things you do leave good impressions and guide your students to the actions they want to repeat in their lives
instead of 
the actions they want to avoid repeating in their lives?


Getting Control of B and D Reversals

Hello Friends! It is November already in first grade...and to the untrained eye, things seem to be running UNBELIEVABLY smoothly!! To the trained eye, however...HOLY SMOKES do we have a whole lot of work to do!!! (insert teacher sobs here!) Yes, routines have fallen nicely into place, behaviors have been tamed, and yes, the classroom climate has developed nicely. However, now that these things are not first and foremost on our to-do lists of things to fix, a whole new group of first grade problems, idiosyncrasies and quirks are staring us in the face! One that I have been working diligently on this past week is THE DREADED B AND D REVERSAL!

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

 Having taught first grade for such a long time, I am here to tell you that much research has been done on the subject of 6-7 year olds writing letters and numbers backwards. In a nutshell, it IS INDEED still developmentally appropriate for children of this age to be reversing letters and numbers when writing. It is when they get beyond first grade and are still having MULTIPLE reversal problems in addition to other reading and writing deficiencies or problems that it is time to be concerned about an underlying problem.
It makes sense that this would still be a developmental issue at this point in their lives...I mean think about it! Imagine if you were told tomorrow that you can only read and write in chinese. Now, you have to learn the sounds, the symbols, the rules of the language, and the meanings and usage of new words. Then... you have to put all of that together at one time and read it and write it. Sound easy? Of course not!
So...yes, it is going to happen in first grade...and yes, it is going to happen A WHOLE BUNCH! I have found that the best thing to do for the class overall, is to constantly remind the students to check the direction of their letters and numbers, and when I say constantly...I mean C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-LY! It is not enough to just circle it or correct it on a paper after the paper has been turned in. Let's be realistic, unless the parent is going to go over that paper with the child at home...you probably just wasted yourself a bunch of time and ink! It is much more beneficial to walk around the room and try to catch it while it is happening so that you can point it out to the student and have them fix it right then. It is just as important to make sure that the students have a clear reference with them at all times so that they can make their corrections. When they are at their seats, I use nameplates that have an alphabet strip and a number line visible as well as their first and last name. This way they are constantly seeing the proper formation and directionality of the letters and numbers. (My favorite nameplates are from Erica Bohrer's TPT Store. You can find them HERE.

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

Since most of our writing is done at our seats, this covers reversals during writing...

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

However, reversals don't stop there! Think about it... those children that are reversing the letters when they write them, are more often than not reversing the letters when they are reading them too!

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

Now, the letters that will trick students up most when  reversing them while reading are lowercase B and D, because when backwards they are interchangeable. (Lowercase P and Q can pose the same problem, however, I have chosen to tackle one hot-mess at a time!)
I have come across lots of  cute stories and pictures to help teach the direction of B and D over the years, but the two that have seemed to work the best for me are "b is a bat and a ball", and "d is a dog with a tail". (This idea originally came from a program called Itchy's Alphabet that uses shapes of everyday objects to help students learn their letters.) My firsties love learning about all the shapes that Itchy thinks letters look like!

This is how I teach the letter B...

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

This is how I teach the letter D...

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

I must also confess, I think the dog one works so well with my students because I do act out what it looks like when a dog comes to you face first, and when a dog comes to you tail first...this is a routine I am requested to do QUITE OFTEN in my classroom! (Hence the name of the blog!)
Since the students choose their own reading spots around the room, they do not have their nameplate to reference for B and D, so I made these reference cards for them to keep with them in their reading folders.

This is a great way to help students get control of b and d reversals in both their reading and their writing.

You can get these FREEBIES HERE
When I print them out for the students I print out 2 on a page onto bright cardstock, laminate, and they keep one in their reading folder and have one to take home and keep with their homework folder. I also print out regular sized copies to keep at my guided reading table, and one poster sized copy to put on the board for reference. 
I hope this helps you tackle B and D Reversals in your classroom...now can someone help me with getting it all done in a day?! a week?! a month even?! Is anybody out there?! (cue crickets!)


The Five Must Have Teacher Qualities...That Have Made Me Who I Am Today

     Well friends.... 23 years is A LONG TIME to be doing something...even if it is something you LOVE doing...even if it is something you know in your heart of hearts you were meant to do...even if it is something that makes you feel proud, knowing you have touched so many lives over the years. It is A LONG TIME!
     Recently, while being observed in my classroom, I was asked,"How do you do it? How do you keep coming back day after day, year after year, with a smile on your face, and as exhausted as you are by the end of each day, you make it work...how?" I thought this through as I drove home on autopilot that day and fell into my favorite chair like a zombie...that was a good question. How do I do it? How do I stay positive when so many teachers around me are rapidly running out of steam? What is the difference? I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know when it comes to my experiences as an educator, the things that have kept me sane, happy, and, well, coming back for more, are the FIVE MUST HAVES.

     Having high expectations for your students is a non-negotiable. If you set your students up from day one to believe that they can do any task you put in front of them...guess what...they will do everything in their power to try to prove you right! Nothing drives me crazier that watching students be "underestimated". If you tell them they cannot do something...of course they aren't going to be able to, and of course they are going to need your help for every little task, and of course you are going to want to pull your hair out by the end of the day!

It amazes me time and time again when I observe teachers who demand the utmost respect from their students at all times...yet give their students no respect in return. These are the same teachers who cannot understand why they have to work so hard on classroom management issues. Well...look at it this way...when you go to a restaurant and the waiter or waitress provides horrible service all evening long, does it make you want to leave a huge tip or walk out without even paying your bill? A little respect toward each student goes a long way...and really, isn't that just normal behavior? They may be little, but they are still a part of the society within our classroom walls.

Ok, this one to me is an absolute NO BRAINER!!!! (But then again I have been told many times, "I knew you were here before I even saw you, because I heard your laugh!") It is no coincidence that the words humor and happy both start with H...They are practically the same word! Regular life is SO serious... it is hard, and it is at times overwhelming. Allowing humor into your classroom rituals and routines provides breathing room in the day for you and your students! It relaxes your environment enough so that students can feel comfortable to be themselves and to realize that learning can be fun.

I learned very early on in my career that one of the biggest favors I can do for my students it to have an open mind. One size does not fit all. One strategy does not fit all. One approach does not fit all. Just because I learned to read using the Open Court Phonics System ("leaky tire, leaky tire, s,s,s") does not mean that is the ONLY way to teach kid to read, and just because kids loved doing coloring pages when I was a kid does not mean they love to do them now! Listen to your students. How do they learn best? What do they like to do? What shows do they watch? What music do they listen to?Adjust your teaching and your environment to their ways of doing things. It makes a WORLD of difference!

If you are unable to open your heart to the needs and the situations facing your students then it may seriously be time to consider a different profession. Teaching is hard work, and it is getting harder by the minute. But what is not on any teaching application is the question "Are you willing to open your heart?" More and more children today are coming to school carrying baggage that is heavy, heartbreaking and often times downright horrible. To run a successful classroom, you need to constantly be ready to accept situations with an open heart. Why didn't the homework come back? Why is that student acting out? Why doesn't he have a coat? Why is he dirty? Why is she falling asleep in class? Don't immediately get angry and blame or punish the child. Listen with an open heart and then help the child through their situation. You may be the only sounding board they have. Remember...not every kid you teach is growing up in the same environment that you did.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you! What are your Must Have Qualities? 


Flashlight Fridays...Not Just For Fun and Games!

Ok...So I kept hearing about Flashlight Fridays, and I thought "what a cute idea! I need to add that to my repertoire of cuteness!" Well, I researched finger flashlights on the internet and found that you can pretty much get them DIRT CHEAP from lots of places...Amazon, Target Dollar Spot, Oriental Trading, and the list goes on... This is what they look like...

I ordered mine from Amazon, (got lots of extras for the INEVITABLE lost, broken, new student, etc.) and I prepped my firsties for the BIG EVENT! "Tomorrow is FLASHLIGHT FRIDAY!"
(Now, if you are in need of a pick me up just tell your students that you will be giving them flashlights to read with AND that you will be turning out the lights AT THE SAME TIME!!!) The OHHHS and AHHS...the YOU ARE THE BEST TEACHER EVER claims will be EPIC!! Not to mention, if there is any work that needs done and collected... plan to do it on FLASHLIGHT FRIDAY, because attendance will be at an ALL TIME HIGH!
***Just a side note here... put a dab of glue on each side of the elastic band where it attaches to the plastic...( I used E-6000...got it at Michaels). This will save you a great deal of leg-work, as you run around trying to fix the bands as they promptly fall off!****

When the BIG DAY arrived, I gave the rules...

LOW AND BEHOLD....IT WAS LIKE A MIRACLE HAD OCCURRED!!!! Never before had my firsties gotten started reading so quickly!

Never before had my firsties gotten started so quietly!

If you are a teacher of young children you know exactly what I mean. When it is reading time, and everyone is SUPPOSED to be reading independently,there are inevitably a few students who find watching YOUR every move much more interesting than the books you have provided for them! Let's face it, even the tissue box becomes a much more interesting topic than THOSE DARN BOOKS! Why??? Well, for one thing, firsties are hugely a nosey, nibby bunch! They are afraid they are going to miss a handout or freebie, or a chance to be first in line! But even more importantly than that, those firsties that won't put their eyes on that print....THEY HAVEN'T BOUGHT IN TO THE SYSTEM YET!!! They are CONVINCED, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are absolutely CRAZY, and there is no way on earth they are EVER going to be able to read those books you have put into their hands!

BUT.... on FLASHLIGHT FRIDAY... they forget all that!!! Their fears go out the window, because, well heck...they have a 3 cent light attached to their finger, and all is well with the world!

It is GENIUS!!!! Now those same kids were saying things like, "Hey..I found the word 'and' in my book!",  "there are pictures of monkeys in my book!", and my personal favorite, "Mrs. Romo, did you know I can really read this book!?" 

 Now, on the other days of the week, I still have some Nosey Nellies who watch my every move, but I have a lot more firsties who have realized something about their life...

"My teacher isn't as crazy as I thought she was, AND I think I am going to get the hang of this reading thing after all!

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