Sunflower Classroom Decor and Meet the Teacher Sets

Sunflower Classroom Decor

Hey y'all! I've been working on some new classroom decor options for the coming school year and I am just in love with this set! I have a whole line of classroom decor options if you want to check them out here, but this is the newest one.

This set is all about that calm country look.

This decor set includes months of the year cards, calendar days, a voice level chart, desk name tags, classroom jobs with editable student name tags, days of the week headers for organizing supplies, subject headers, word wall letters with both big and small, print and cursive options, table numbers, a number line to 20, a welcome banner, and editable labels for just about anything you need.

The meet the teacher set includes a welcome sign, class wish list, supply labels, information station sign and forms, editable teacher information cards, and treat toppers.

You can grab a copy of the Sunflower set here. This set is sure to create a calm and friendly atmosphere in your classroom.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more resources coming soon. Have a wonderful week and stay sweet.

Distance Learning Daily Challenges for Kids

Daily Challenges for Distance Learning

Hey, y'all. How's distance learning going for you? My kiddos are starting to get the hang of this, and these little daily challenges are keeping the momentum going as well as our classroom community.

It all started on Wednesday when I saw this post from a friend on Instagram:

So, I got on Class Dojo and challenged my kids to make their own wheels. They were so creative with some making wheels out of toys, race cars, nail polish, LOL dolls, and more! They liked seeing what things their friends came up with (and what toys they have at their houses!).

So, I started thinking about other daily challenges we could do to keep the classroom community going strong, let them know they're not alone, and encourage them to keep thinking. I teach second grade, so the ideas have to be pretty simple. Here's a list of things some fellow teachers and I have come up with so far:

1.  Make a color wheel

2.  Build a city out of anything (blocks, toilet paper rolls, newspapers, stuffed animals, anything)

3.  Show us your favorite yoga moves

4.  Find the most interesting item in your backyard, take a closeup picture, let us guess what it is.

5.  Make a sculpture out of anything

6.  Make a toy out of a toilet paper roll

7.  Make some kind of vehicle that can roll

8.  Make a picture (out of anything--this can be a painting, coloring, cut and glue collages, etc)

9.  Gather a collection of an even number of things (on the equinox on March 20, when there's an even amount of daytime and nighttime)

10. Build a rainbow out of anything

11. Use (clean) recyclable items to build something with (Earth Day)

12. Write a song, video yourself singing it, and post it for us

13. Draw a picture of your teacher

14. Do a book talk about a book you're reading, video it, post it for us

15. Write a poem about the last thing you ate. Send us a picture of the poem.

16. Go outside, hop the biggest hop you can, measure the length of the hop, share your hop measurement with the class. Bonus points for pictures.

17. Find all the pennies you can find in your house and build something out of them. (Just be sure to give them back to your family members when you're done with them.)

18. Students send in a picture of their smile early in the day. Teacher puts the pictures together in one or two images. Students guess who's smile is who's.

19. Students send in a baby picture. Teacher complies images. Students guess who's is who's.

20. Students show a half or fourth of something, like a sandwich, a cookie, their collection of just about anything, a measuring cup, etc.

21. Upcycle an item like a toilet paper tube or a can into something handy

22. Students make a flower on paper or out of something. Piece the pictures together at the end of the day to make a garden.

23. Students get up and get moving in whatever way they like--a Nerf gun fight, a dance party, sliding back and forth down the hallway, yoga time--and send you a video.

24. Students take a picture of 4 items, 3 things that belong together and one odd thing out. Post it for the class to see and students guess what the odd thing out is in the comments.

25. What can you create with Easter eggs? Use however many you want and show us your creativity.

26. Set up an animal or creation in front of a piece of paper and do a shadow drawing.

27. Make an epic blanket fort.

28. Go on a virtual field trip and share with the class where you went and the coolest thing you learned.

All of these challenges are being shared in our class story or in student portfolios on Class Dojo so no one's information is being compromised. What other ideas would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

Good luck out there and I hope you have a wonderful week of learning online with your littles.

Stay sweet,

Keeping Learning Going During School Closings: Ideas and Tips

Keeping Learning Going During School Closings 

Hey, y'all. It has been one crazy week hasn't it?! As of the writing of this post, our school is still in session next week, but I know many of us aren't due to COVID-19. All over social media (I have spent way too much time on there the last couple of days!), teachers are wondering what to send home to kids for work during this time.

My district is tightening their purse strings quite a bit on copies and things, and our students at the elementary level don't have devices to take home with them so video conferencing is out of the question for most. So what does that leave? A call for some creative thinking.

Learning from home work doesn't have to involve massive packets or crazy technology. If and when we go out on quarantine, here are few things I plan on doing to make things easier on all of us.

1. Email parents (or call or ClassDojo--whatever I need to do to get parents in the know)
I'll be sending out a list of ways to keep things going while we ride out this storm. Detailing information in writing is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

2. Send out a "schedule"
I don't expect parents to be able to all be on the same subject at the same time, but sending out a general time frame of how long we spend on each subject gives parents an idea of how we can best meet our little's learning needs during this time. For instance, I might tell parents to have their child read for an hour a day and write for a half hour. It certainly doesn't have to all be in one sitting. It just gives families a guideline to go by.

3. Provide a list of ideas
Most parents have no idea what the heck we do with their kids all day (or how we get it all done!). Providing parents with a list of ideas is key. Here are my ideas:
(And yes, some involve technology because, even though the district doesn't supply devices for littles to take home, most of them have something they can use.)

  • Read (I can't say this enough. Bonus points for reading responses in a journal or online classroom forum)
  • Practice spelling words by typing them, rainbow writing, cutting letters out of a magazine, etc. 
  • Write (grocery lists, stories, letters, blog ideas, text messages, anything)
  • Give your child math problems to practice solving on scrap paper (parents will naturally differentiate this as they work with their child) 
  • Go on a shape hunt
  • Divide cookies into fractions 
  • Build something
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Find a newspaper and read it
  • Research a topic of interest and put together a report
  • Use online learning apps like Epic, BrainpopJr., Sushi Monster (in the App store), Vooks, Storyline Online, NatGeo, etc. 
  • Get outside and play a game or run around (PE time)
  • Play an instrument (music)
  • Make a picture of some kind (art) 

4. Provide a way for kids and families to share their work with you
If your families are already familiar with SeeSaw and have access to it, your job got a whole lot easier. They can simply upload their work that way. If you haven't used it yet, but have tech savvy families who are ready to learn on the fly, this could be an option for you, too. Students could also send in pictures of their work through email, ClassDojo portfolios, or text (if you're willing to share your phone number with families during this time). I sent my students' Google Classroom logins home with them over winter break. If you have enough students who's parents can help them navigate Google Classroom at home, this is another option for turning in things students are working on. 

5. Stay in contact
Staying in contact with families is essential for keeping things running smoothly. Not all parents are confident in their abilities to teach their kids, but providing ways families can help their child while we ride this out will do wonders for keeping things on track academically. Parents will have questions. Being available for them and coaching parents through this will empower parents to help their kids through more academic obstacles in the future. 

These are my low-tech ideas for supporting students and families during this time. What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments. And good luck!

Stay sweet, 

Teaching Like Finland: What Worked and What Didn't

Teach Like Finland: What Worked, and What Didn't

Hey, y'all. If you've followed me for awhile, you probably heard bits and pieces about my finishing my master's degree this year. Now usually that's pretty boring news to everyone outside of your immediate family, but I did some research during the capstone that I thought might be of interest.

You've probably seen my posts about about hygge and lagoon by now (if not, you can find them here and here and here). If you don't remember the term, it's a Danish word that loosely translates into a feeling of coziness, warmth, and togetherness. Stumbling upon the term "hygge" has led to my fascination with all things Scandinavian--their culture, their appreciation for slowing down and enjoying things, and, most importantly for this post, their school systems. I devoured the book Teach Like Finland, and from then on, I was hooked. 

Finland has one of the best school systems in the world. They consistently out perform the United States in reading and math on the PISA exam, AND they pretty much do everything opposite of the US. They test less, nurture more, give students more autonomy, have less class time and more down time, but they perform so much better on international tests. Even without all the practice testing that US kids get. 

So I did a little research. Why do they do so much better? And can I use the instructional strategies they use in my classroom and have the same results? 

I won't bore you with all the details, but in a nutshell, we practiced goal-setting, student-centered lessons/structures, and choice time. Another aspect I wanted to research but didn't have the resources to test for (or admin support if we're going to be real here) is interdisciplinary units--meaning students have a topic and learn all about the topic within the context of each subject area. Think project-based learning on steroids. 

Anyway, we tested the Finnish teaching strategies, which are largely American strategies as well, just implemented differently, and the outcome was surprising. 

The students that showed the most growth in these units compared to other units were the students that had strong, stable home environments. The students that didn't have those strong environments at home did not to nearly as well. 

Now, I know what you're thinking. Kids from more stable homes always do better. However, these measures of growth were against themselves--how much these same kids grew in other units. The students with the stronger backgrounds grew much more in those units than in previous units. The kids from more...flexible backgrounds...would normally show more growth than they did in these units compared to previous units. 

So...I conclude that the social systems Finland has in place in their country is the major reason their students out perform ours. You see, in Finland, children get support from the government from birth. Parents receive supplies for the baby, have a lengthy maternity and paternity leave, and child care and preschool at almost no cost to parents. 

Healthcare and mental health services are provided to all citizens. Families are well supported and are encouraged to have time together, including paid time off for vacations. The students have their basic needs met before they ever walk into the school's doors. 

We could talk pedagogy all day (I literally could), but the bottom line is that their Maslow's needs are met long before they are ever asked to Bloom. (See what I did there? 😉) I would love to continue to research these teaching practices and fully implement them for the entire school year (especially interdisciplinary units), but the hard reality is that the students in our schools need more than just a school can provide. 

They need to be cared for at home with adequate healthcare, stable family situations, books, parents who don't have to worry about making ends meet and can actually enjoy spending time with their kids. (Finland's percent of families in poverty is much lower than that of the US.) Until we have a massive overhaul of our country as a whole (values, financial distribution, healthcare, stable family situations), our education reforms won't be able to fix things. 

Yes, education reform is needed (I can't tell you how many Red for Ed events I've been to), but it has to start at home and with a major government reform. I'm not saying we need to go all socialist, but we do need to move as country into investing in our kids and families. That is where true changes will have the biggest impact. 

What do you think? Let me know in the comments. If you want any book recommendations for further reading, I have tons of suggestions to offer!

Have a wonderful week and stay sweet,