Win a $100 Shopping Spree!

I'm so excited about this final promotion for PLANUARY (a month of lesson planning awesomeness)!  

Throughout the month, I've had so much fun sharing resources and lesson plans with my favorite people...teachers!  For the last PLANUARY promotion, I'm having a $100 Brain Waves Instruction shopping spree giveaway. 

That's right, the winner of the giveaway will have $100 to spend at Brain Waves Instruction.  As the winner, you'll have until August 31st to spend your winnings.  Just imagine all the poetry, reading comprehension, literature, test prep, writing, and fun stuff you could get for your classroom. 

Imagine all the days that you won't have to plan a single thing...because you'll have all your lesson plans created.  Imagine how much fun your students will have learning with you.  Imagine how jealous your colleagues will be when you roll out of school with the buses. Imagine picking out $100 worth of resources and enjoying them all for FREE!

Ready to enter?  It's easy!

1.  Follow Brain Waves Instruction on Facebook:

2.  Then, click HERE to fill out a simple entry form.  You'll be sharing your first name and your email address (so I can notify you that you're rich in resources).

That's it!  You have until midnight on January 30th to enter.  I'll be announcing the winner on January 31st!

Thanks so much for joining in on the PLANUARY fun!  The response was amazing!  I'm committed to making 2016 super fun for teachers.  I even have a special surprise in the works for February.  It has something to do with two of my favorite things:  HomeGoods and Teachers!  I'll be sharing all the details on Facebook, Instagram, and through the Brain Waves Instruction newsletter (be sure to subscribe).

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you win!

Mary Beth

Building Positive Parent Relationships

As teachers we know that there's nothing better than positive relationships with parents. That's because when parents and teachers are on the same team children are more successful in school.  Let's face it, parents are our No. 1 resource; who would know better why Suzy was feeling tired or sad today, and what you might do about it? And who would be happier to hear that Suzy’s hard work paid off on the quiz she just aced?

It’s not always easy to establish and maintain a good rapport with parents, but it’s worth it. Trust me: Happy parents make for happy teachers!

Here are a few tried and true ways to build and maintain solid relationships with parents:

Starting on Day 1, make your classroom a pleasant, inviting place where students and parents alike feel welcome. Offer to help new students with lockers and finding their way around. Such actions can go a long way toward earning a parent’s trust and appreciation. Later, on Curriculum Night, you can go one better and provide snacks and beverages to parents, along with key information about yourself, your classroom routines and expectations.

Also, I feel that I should point out here that at the beginning of each school year, I put an actual welcome mat outside of my classroom door.  It's a very physical reminder for all who enter my classroom whether it be a student, a colleague, a staff member, or a parent, that ALL are welcome.  That welcome mat, both figuratively and literally has served me well in building relationships!

Communication is king. Parents like to be informed of what’s going on in their child’s classroom. You can achieve that with a formal printed newsletter, or a simple biweekly email update. I've found that a streamlined process for classroom news works best.  I like to share a few of the top highlights for the week or even month to keep parents in the loop. If you maintain a classroom webpage, be sure to keep it updated with curriculum matters, upcoming quiz and project due dates, and links to handy resources. Bonus points if you include photos of your students in action! 

For matters concerning a single student, reach out with a phone call or e-mail – and keep trying until you’ve reached his or her parent. It’s much better to keep parents in the loop than to surprise them on a report card. Don’t forget to share the good news, too!  Check out this post all about the Power of a Positive Phone Call.

During the first few weeks of school, I always collect routine – but also personal – information from students and parents. In addition to e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers, I ask parents to fill out a sheet informing me of their children’s learning style, what friends they work best with, when their birthdays are, and how they spend their free time. I keep the sheets in a binder, ready to pull out during conferences or team meetings. Parents feel reassured that someone cared enough to ask what Billy’s favorite subject is in school. And you’ll have a better understanding of your students.

Another way that I like to learn about my students from their parents is with the "In a million words or less" assignment.  

Have you ever done this?  It's simple.  All you do is task parents to tell you about their child in 1,000,000 words or less.  I usually do this at the beginning of the year, but I bet you could send it home with your students right now if you wanted to.  Just be prepared to shed a few tears and feel a lot closer to your students and their families when the responses start rolling in.  I treasure the stories that parents share about their kids and I read them throughout the school year.  It's also an instant way to connect with parents and learn new things about students.  If you'd like to give it a try, you can find an assignment sheet right HERE for FREE.

There's no doubt about it, parents are a super important resource for us teachers!  I've found that making an effort to connect with parents has done wonders for my students and classroom.  Plus, as a parent myself (of two boys), I've found that I teach with a whole new perspective and appreciation for parents.  Wanna know how being a parent has changed me as a teacher?  Check out this post!

Thanks for stopping by,

Mary Beth

Movement & Learning in the Classroom

Educators have long known that movement helps children learn. Science backs that up. According to researchers, movement during instruction improves all facets of students' brain functioning.   
Just check out this fact...

Something as simple as stretching increases oxygen to key brain areas, and can help keep students focused and on task.  If we as educators tap into our students' natural desire to move, imagine what we can do for their learning.  Fortunately, infusing movement into the classroom isn't that challenging.  Read on for some simple-but-fun ideas that I’ve compiled from some favorite resources.

Rather than standing at the head of each row or small group to pass out papers, put the materials in strategic spots around the room. When it’s time to use them, have the students get up and get ‘em themselves!

OK, you already know that I'm nuts about learning centers/stations, so it's no surprise that I'm sharing them as a way to incorporate movement into the classroom.  Not only are learning centers a great way to tap into the way students learn, they also encourage movement.  Kids are up and moving after each center. That means that they're getting more out of each center.  How cool is that?

After a sedentary activity like watching a video or reading a chapter, have students draw fifteen circles on a blank piece of paper.  Inside 3 of the circles, have students write down something that they learned.  Then, challenge students to move around the classroom and share the ideas in their circles.  While sharing, they should write down any new ideas from their peers in the other circles on their paper.  Challenge students to fill all 15 of their circles before you call time. Moving, mingling, & learning!  Easy!

We ask students to answer questions all the time in our classroom.  Sometimes it's fun to incorporate movement into something as simple as reviewing for a test or going over the content from the previous class period.  It's easy to do if you tack a movement task onto each question that we ask.  For instance, while you're going over the characteristics of civilization, you might have students also "give you 5" jumping jacks or laps around the classroom or even push-ups. I love incorporating movement in my classroom with "give me 5" because often students that resist answering questions get more involved because they'd like to accept the movement challenge.  Gotta love that!

So, there you have it, just a few ways to get students moving and learning. What do you do to incorporate movement into your instruction?  Feel free to share in the comments below. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Mary Beth

Kindness in the Classroom

I can recall many times in my career, as a student and as a teacher, when someone’s kindness – a teacher’s, a classmate’s, a colleague’s – made me feel more at ease and ultimately helped me be more successful. It’s no different for our kids: Students tend to learn more in a kind, supportive environment.

Besides, we’re educating not just the kids of our classrooms, but the future citizens of the world! Given the current state of affairs, we would do well to nurture kindness where we can. We can also celebrate where it already exists. In our increasingly diverse classrooms, bringing out the kindness already instilled in our kids can go a long way toward building tolerance and respect.

Here are 4 surefire ways to make your classroom – and maybe the world – a kinder place...

#1 Write It!

Play “Pass the Compliment.” Begin by discussing what makes a sincere compliment, and how to give specific praise. Explain to your students that a comment like “good job” is less powerful than a comment that begins with “I really liked the way you...” Once they’ve got the gist, have them put their new skill into practice by writing specific, sincere compliments about their classmates by passing around customized compliment collecting papers for each student. 

When the students receive their customized, original compliments, stand back and watch them beam – my students talked about this for months after we did it!  

    Here's another idea.  Help students write kind thank you notes to others.  They could write them to classmates, members of the school community, or other important people in their lives.  First, teach students HOW to write a thank you note.  Help them understand the critical elements of a sincere note of thanks.  

    Then, you might want to take the note-writing a step further as they create fun thank you pockets.  

    The thoughtful notes and pockets will not only be treasured keepsakes, they're also simple ways to put kindness into words!

    Great News!  I've compiled a FREE resource filled with kindness activities.  You can sign up and download it HERE.

    #2 Spread It!

    We can create a sea of kindness – one drop at a time! Host a Random Acts of Kindness challenge in your classroom to encourage students to spread kindness at school, home and in the community. 

    In this activity, students perform four random acts of kindness and record their good deeds on “drops of kindness.” 

    The drops of kindness can be collected and displayed in the classroom as a reminder of the power and impact of small acts of kindness.

    You could also have students perform acts of kindness and add them to strips of paper.  Then, combine the strips of paper into a paper chain that you can display in your classroom.  If you do the Random Acts of Kindness chain as a school-wide project, the chain could hang and weave its way through all the school hallways!

    #3 Read It!

    I love the short story by Langston Hughes, “Thank You,Ma’am,” as a learning tool for reinforcing the transformative power of kindness. Read this aloud (or have students read it to themselves) and chart the ways in which Mrs. Jones’ kindness impacted the boy in the story. Then have the students write a thank you note to someone who showed them a great kindness.  Or, check out this interactive notebook resource for teaching the short story.

    Poetry is another great way to explore the theme of kindness. Consider the following sampling of poems:
    -   ----- “Little Things” by Julia Fletcher Carney
    -   ----- “Love Between Brothers and Sisters” by Isaac Watts
    -   ----- “The Ants” by
    -   ----- “Kindness to Animals” by Anonymous (as a side note, include discussion of the Abraham Lincoln anecdote his friends recorded about the time he stopped to save a young robin)
    -   ----- “To a Child” by William Wordsworth

    Tape the poems onto chart paper and have students rotate in groups to each one. Have them silently record questions and reflections on the chart paper about what they’ve read and how it relates to kindness. You can even have them engage in a silent, written conversation.

    #4 Model It!

    With 25+ sets of eyes and ears on us teachers, perhaps the best way to create a culture of kindness in the classroom is to model it. When we show our students what kindness looks, sounds, and feels like, they’re likely to repeat the modeled behaviors.

    The best thing about kindness is that it truly is contagious.  Infuse a little kindness in your classroom and watch how it begins to positively impact how students learn, care for others, and treat themselves.  

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Mary Beth

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