Sunday, June 12, 2016

Best Summer Reads for Teachers

Every single summer, I have a list of books I want to read or reread as I think about changes I can make for next year. I'm currently reading my third, fourth, and fifth books of the summer simultaneously. Some of these books I have read before and some are new to me and on my to read list. So here list of must reads for the summer.

Move Your Bus
I just finished this one and seriously, any book by Ron Clark is a treasure trove of great ideas and a total inspiration. This is one I had not previously read. But I highly enjoyed it. This is not the only Ron Clark book on my reading list for the summer.

I'm also reading this one. Again.

The End of Molasses Classes
I think this is probably my third read through of this one. Just so much inspiration packed between the covers of this book.

I also have read most, if not all, of this one before, but want to reread it again this summer.

The Essential 55
I just cannot get enough of Ron Clark's inspiring stories. They make me want to do better. They challenge me to stretch and grow in many ways. Ron Clark, if you did not know, was the Disney teacher of the year in the early 2000's. He has since opened his own school that also allows educators to come and be trained in their amazing methods of student engagement and excellence in education and behavior. It is my goal to someday in the next year or two attend one of the training sessions at his school.

A new read for me that I finished up today was this one.

Crash Course
This woman is also a powerhouse and the co-founder of the school that Ron Clark started. She is an amazing teacher that transforms her classroom into magical learning experiences for complete student buy-in and engagement. I've done some of this, but reading this book has just taken my ideas to a whole new level. Seriously cannot wait to try some of these. 

This is one I picked up, I think, last summer. I am reading it again. It was just so inspiring. Love it!

Teach Like a Pirate
This book has lots of great ideas for student engagement. ...are you seeing a theme here?

This is one I picked up a few years ago and have on my reread list. 

Teach like a Champion
Many great techniques that can be easily put into practice immediately within the classroom.

Some other new books that are waiting in my Amazon cart. I've heard some great things about this one. 

Learn Like a Pirate Another one I want to read and have heard great things about from a teacher I follow and admire. 

Kids Deserve It This one looks like a great read as well.

Explore Like a Pirate

Another one.

Play Like a Pirate Yet another that looks great.

Launch Here's another I want to read.

Ditch that Textbook

One for a school book club this summer. Our school uses Responsive Classroom as our behavior model. So we are all (K-6) making our way through this one. This book lays out the first six weeks of school for each grade level (through 6th) to help teachers set rules, procedures, etc. I've read the previous edition of this, but it has recently been updated and released as a 2nd edition.

The First Six Weeks of School
And one more.

The Innovator's MIndset Yeah, that's a lot of books to make my way through, but I think I can do it. Most of them seem to be easy reads. 

What do you do to grow over the summer? What books are you reading?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review Games

I have always loved doing review games in class. I can use them with any subject. One class favorite is Jeopardy. I just use the class content to create different categories and I make different questions for each category. Each question is assigned a point value (I ususally assign values starting at 100 and go through 500). At the end of the game, student teams can wager their available points for a chance to add more points or even double their scores on a final Jeopardy question. It's a lot of fun and my class begs to play. A few years ago I purchased a set of these buzzers. My students love using them. Each buzzer makes a different sound. You just have to be careful with them because if the students get too excited and slam them very hard, they will get stuck.

 Most students are in my class for two years since I teach 3rd and 4th combined. But I've been using this game for many years more than that and so I started to look for some more quick and easy review games that were just as fun. We still do Jeopardy, but just mix things up a bit more with other games as well.

Pinterest can be a teacher's best friend. There's so much inspiration there and I could literally get lost for hours. I have found some other great games that are super easy and I have tested them out. The students are pretty excited about using them as well. The latest one that I tested out was called Grudgeball. Here's a link to the website (over at Each team starts the game with 10 x's on the board. When a question is answered correctly, the team can choose to earse 2 x's from another team's score or they can split the x's and erase on from two differnt teams. There's also an option for students to be able to erase more points by shooting a basket from different lines designated in your classroom. I have a little suction cup baskeball set that is perfect for this. The students in my class gave it a big two thumbs up!

Another game, Stinky Feet, is a great game that we will definitely try again. You draw a big foot and make squiggly marks around it to make it look stinky. Then you use sticky notes to write point values on (Be sure to write them underneath so that when you stick the note around on your foot drawing they will look like blank notes.). Some of the points will be positive points such as +5, or + 10...however high you want to go. I think I added one high of +50. Then some of the notes are programed with negative scores such as -10 and - 5.  After trying this game out, I would suggest making less of the negative score notes. Each time a team answers a quiz quesiton correctly, the team chooses a note and that score is added or taken away from their total. The team with the most points wins the game. Again, this is SO. MUCH. FUN. And I think what makes it even more fun is the element of surprise. You just never know what you will get.

The final new game I've tried out this school year is calleld Zap. Here's a link. You need library card pockets. Or you can make your own, like I did. Here's a link to a printable card.   You will need 16 cards. I glued four rows of four on the pockets on a big chart paper. Next, I printed the cards from the website to go inside.  There are fun cards like, "Switch scores with another team." and "Zap another team" (which leaves them without any points at all) and many other fun cards. When a team gets a question right, they pick a pocket and I read their card and then we adjust the scores.

I use review games a lot to quiz my class over social studies, science, and Bible.
What fun review games do you play in your class?

Making Cleaning Fun

We all know that working in a classroom all day with so many students can leave the floor areas less than tidy by the end of the day. I used to tackle this problem with a lot of reminders about cleaning their areas, etc. Not anymore. Introducing....The Secret Piece game. I just take a quick look over the floors in my room, letting my eyes take in one specific piece of trash. Then all I have to do is sit back and announce, "I have a secret piece." The class spontaneously bursts into a cleaning frenzy grabbing anything and everything they can off of the floor and bringing it to me before putting it away and going for more trash (I use the term "trash" loosely, because "trash" in this case can mean anything that is out of place and on the floor....I've even had some students carry other students over to me as a joke....). One tip here, I never tell students if they have the secret piece. I just say things like, "Thank you, alright, O.K." and the like. I never stop the game until the classroom floor is clean. Afterward, I usually have students clean their desks and tell them I will announce who has found the secret piece after they are ready to go home. Once students are cleaned up and seated, I will announce the person who had the secret piece (I try not to mention what the secret piece was because it can sometimes cause an argument like, "I found that first!" Or "I found one of those too." It keeps it easier and makes it much more fun if I just announce the name of the person who found it and that is all.). After I announce the finder of the secret piece, I will reward that person with a small something (usually a piece of candy, special pencil, or even a visit to the prize box. Another option could be a special privilege if you do not want to have to spend any money. Maybe the student could spend one class period with their shoes off tomorrow, or use some special supplies you have...the sky's the limit.)

So, in closing, here are my tips to playing The Secret Piece game:
1. Locate a piece of "trash" ahead of time.
2. Have the students show you what they find before they throw it away or put it away.
2. Do not let the students know if someone has found the secret piece until the whole classroom floor has been cleaned to your satisfaction.
3. Once students are all cleaned up and seated, announce only the name of the person, but never what the secret piece was.
4. Let the secret piece finder have a small prize.

Another thing I do upon occasion is have two winners...the secret piece finder and the student who I think worked hardest or found the most trash or picked up the most pencil shavings. It just keeps things fresh and adds a twist now and then.