Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rewards, Incentives, and Prizes for Middle School Students

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are several different external rewards I use in my classroom.  They not only give the students something visible and tangible to work towards in the short term, it's just plain fun! Usually I give out 4-6 prizes when we do ticket drawings. {For more info on how I run my ticket system click the link}

My Rewards and Prizes

1. Sit in the teacher's chair: Who doesn't love a swivel chair??

2. Chew Gum in Class: With the expectation they will not pop it!

3. Sit with a friend during class: I am a big believer in assigned seating, so this is a special treat!
4. No Homework: Who doesn't need a night off?

5. Take a Quiz with a Friend:  Both students must submit a paper or Google Form, but they are allowed to collaborate during the quiz.  Usually I send them to the library to take it.

6. 10 minutes of Free Time:  I usually let them cash this one in on quiz and test days. They can get on the computer, draw, sleep, read, etc.

7. Pick candy from the bucket: I have a wide variety of candy for them to choose from: from lollipops to movie boxes of candy.

8. Ice Cream at Lunch: If they win this one, I tape the money needed, .75, to the back of the ticket.  They love it!

9. Cookie at Lunch:  I do the same thing with this one, tape the money to the back of the card.

10. Library Time: I let them cash this in when we are doing individual work, or if they get done early.

11. My Signature: This is a random one!  You have to sell it BIG time, make a huge deal of it, sign it in front of them.  It is always funny!

12.  5 Pencils: Because you know how they disappear into thin air and no one seems to have one. Ever.

13. First in the Lunch Line: I have no idea why the students always fight over the front of the line.  It's not like the food is going to go anywhere, but what do I know? Lining up for lunch is like the start of the Hunger Games.

14.  Class DJ for the Day: I play music while to students are writing for our bell ringer.  They always want to select a song! If a student wins this prize, they get to select the songs for the day.  They must give you the list ahead of time so you can make sure it's appropriate.

15. One Free Test Answer:  They can cash this in with you at any time you're taking a test.

16. One Free Question During a Test: This is different then the answer. They can ask you ONE question to help them figure out the answer.

17. Complete Class Assignment with a Friend: Always a favorite! They both must complete the assignment, but they can collaborate on it.

18. Get into the School Dance for Free: Most administration will not have a problem with you doing this, just make sure you clear it with them ahead of time. Same for the next item...

16. Get into a Sporting Event for Free
17. +5 points EC: I let them attach this to any assignment or test.

18. +10 points EC: Again, they can use this on whatever they feel they need to.

19. Free 100 on an assignment: They still have to complete the assignment, but they automatically get a 100.

20. Wear a hat for a day: You may only be allowed to do this in your classroom, and not the whole school.

21. 3 Extra Hall Passes: I give every student 3 hall passes every quarter. For someone who forgets stuff in their locker a lot, this is like gold to them!

22. Listen to music while working: Ever since we got the Chrome Book Cart, this is all the students want to do.  Maybe I'm old, but I just don't like them listening to their headphones when they are supposed to be working or reading. This is a big prize all students are excited to win.

23.  Computer Helper: This student gets to stand at my computer and run my Prezi or Presentation.

24. Ask the Teacher Anything: They get one personal question. I tell them on the front side that it can not be mean or inappropriate.  A lot of times it's, "Where did you meet your husband?" and questions like that.

25. Decorate my White Board: Students love to draw on the white board, and since I don't allow that on an everyday basis, they like this prize.

26. 5 Minutes of Funny Videos: They can take the last five minutes of class and watch funny Vine or AFV videos.

27. Leave Class 5 Minutes Early: Who doesn't like the extra time to get to their locker and go to the cold water fountain?!

28. Eat Lunch Outside with a Friend: Obviously this is a spring and early Fall prize.  Make sure to designate a spot where an adult can see them.

29. Teacher Assistant for the Day: They will pass out papers, erase the board, run errands, etc....

30. Sheet of Bubble Popping: I get a lot of these in my stuff from Amazon.  I set the expectation they will not pop it in my class or other classes.

31. 5 Minutes of Drawing Time: I give them a mini white board if they want, or white paper.

32. 5 Pencil Cap Erasers: They are always asking me for this!

33. Take a Selfie with the Teacher: Because that is always fun

34. Take a Groupie with the Class: I let them do this the last five minutes and EVERYONE has to been in the picture.

35. Show the Class Your Favorite Cat Video: Because everyone has at least one.

36. 5 Extra Minutes at Lunch: Make sure your clear this with the class that comes in after you.

37. Wear the Class Crown for a Day: Get one at the dollar store or Burger King. To make it extra fun, have everyone address them as Your Highness!

38. A Forever High Five: Trace your hand on a paper plate and attach a Popsicle stick as a handle.  The student who wins this can high five the plate whenever they feel they need one!

39. 10 Minutes of Computer Time: Most of the time they want to play Cool Math Games or get on YouTube.

40. Can of Spam: Always funny.  Set the expectation they have to open it at home.

41. Dust Bunny From my Room: I find a dust bunny, put it in a baggie, and give it away.  You have to play it up, make a big deal of it, let the winner name the bunny, etc.  Everyone always laughs and has a good time with this one!

42. Mini Bottle of Mustard: Because who doesn't need that?! Set the expectation they open it at home.

43. The Principals Signature: Again, play it up! Make it the biggest deal ever!

44. Can of Corn: Always funny!

45. 5 tickets: To use for the next drawing.

You can write these on your own cards, or if you want a set to start using ASAP, download here.

Let me know if you have any questions about how I do tickets and prizes in my classroom!

Happy Teaching,

Friday, December 30, 2016

Rewards for Middle School Students

Although I have extremely high expectations for my students, I do not expect them to come into my class with pocket fulls of intrinsic motivation.  Through my yearly mission of increasing and building their self purpose and motivation, I sprinkle in some fun tangible rewards to get them going.  These rewards range from dust bunnies I have found in popular teachers classrooms (yes, I really gave away dust in a bag. Funny thing is the students LOVED it.) to cans of Spam, to movie theater boxes of candy.  The trick is to intermix stuff they really want (candy) with random and off the wall things (mini bottles of mustard).

How to Start a Ticket System
    1. As students are doing what’s expected, or going beyond, give them a ticket. Tell them they are to write their name on the back, and save their tickets until the end of the week, month, quarter, etc.
    2. When you decide it’s time to draw for prizes, have the students turn all of their tickets in.
    3.  Have a grab bag of prizes ready. Pull out the prize first (this is key to get students excited about your random off the wall prizes!) Then pull out a ticket of the person who wins the prize. Watch the excitement unfold!

Tickets give students a tangible item to strive for. It’s instant gratification for good behavior.  The key is to scaffold the tickets.  I give out a ton of tickets the first couple of weeks of school, and then slowly decrease the amount of tickets and number of drawings I do.  By the end of the year, we are not even doing ticket drawings.  And shockingly, most students don't even notice!

Tomorrow I'm going to post the 48 rewards and incentives I use in my classroom!  If you would like a sneak peak, click here!

Happy Teaching,

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cover Reveal

All of my teaching friends kept telling me I should write I book. 
I thought to myself,  maybe I should write a book.
So, I wrote a book. 
It's focused on how to create a positive and productive classroom aimed at beginning teachers or teachers who just need a reset.
It has been an exciting process to get all of my ideas and methods down on paper. I can't wait to share more, but until then here is the cover!!

Increase Parent Communication

I used to be the worst at staying touch with parents about upcoming assignments and due dates.  THE WORST. It is embarrassing to say, but my regular communication with parents was almost non existent!! 

And then someone showed me something amazing. Something FREE! Something that totally went with my style, and integrated seamlessly into my workflow...

I just set up my classes, invited parents to sign up, and send texts whenever we have something coming up.  It takes 5 seconds!
Parents appreciate it since it comes straight to their phones, and I love it since it's so easy!
In addition, parents can text you back through the app!  And who doesn't prefer the ease of a text??

Happy Teaching,

Email Address:
First Name :
Last Name:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Increase Intrinsic Student Motivation

 Last year one of my students, Casey, came into my class on the first day of school and proudly announced, “I hate reading. I’m not good at it. I hate your class!” All of this on the first day before she even let me introduce myself!! 
    I thanked her for sharing, and promised her she would not feel like that at the end of the year.  She promptly rolled her eyes, muttered, “yea, right!”,  and slouched in her chair.
    When the day came for the Truth Statement Activity, the first item Casey put on her list was “I hate reading!” I helped her change this statement into, “I work hard at learning to like reading.” She looked at me like I was crazy stating that it wasn’t true, and it never would be! I smiled and told her it would be, just give it time!
    From that point forward, anytime she had to read something, I would have her write her Truth Statement at the top of the passage, or on a paper near by.  I then made her say it out loud (trust me, there were tons and tons of eye rolls, but begrudgingly did it.) Little by little and day by day she worked hard on her reading assignments; learning to work hard at something that did not come easy to her.
    When it came time for end of year state test, I hugged her, told her she was going to do amazing, and that all of her hard work on learning to like reading will pay off! Before she started her test, she wrote her truth statement on the front cover of the booklet, and off she went.  Casey annotated all over the passages, highlighted key words in her questions, and put so much effort into checking over her work.  To say I was proud is an understatement!
    When the scores came back a couple of days later, Casey grew 23 points! She went from a level one to a proficient level three! Through the repetition of telling herself she was going to work hard, she did, and it paid off big time!
    Students walk into our classroom with years of baggage.  While we would like them to have experienced the best teachers, positive parenting, and great friends, this is not often the case.  I believe our number one job as educators is to help students discover their purpose in life, and to nurture and encourage these discoveries.  

We have to turn their negative self talk into positive truth statements that will help them grow, learn, and discover. This activity, when reinforced daily, will do just that! 

 Happy Teaching,

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Passion Project: Making Research Projects More Meaningful

The Passion Project was created out of the need to make our research unit more meaningful and engaging for my middle school students.
With research projects of the past, I felt students just went through the steps, checked boxes, and turned in a so-so product. They had almost zero investment and pride in what they created.  So much so that they didn't care if it went in the dumpster after being graded and displayed!
Knowing that my students needed to make connections with their research in order to make it meaningful, this past summer I revamped the whole unit. I borrowed ideas from Google's 80/20 initiative, Genius Hour, and other school's Passion Projects.
The end result was an 8 week project focused around student's individual interests. It was rigorous and challenging for the students, but meaningful!!  Projects ranged from learning how to play the piano, to cooking, to designing clothing, to developing a website that translated hard to read sports articles into simple, kid friendly stories.
The end results went far beyond what I could have imagined at the beginning of the unit!
She learned how to cook food from her culture.

She learned about animal abuse and how to raise awareness.

He learned how to play the piano.

He learned how to bake a decorate cakes. 

Outline of the project
Week 1: Developing an inquiry based topic {I showed this video to get them started with brainstorming}
Week 2: Proposal Presentation
Week 3-6: Blogging and working on developing the idea
Week 7: Preparing Presentation
Week 8: Reflection

One of the most valuable things I did for this unit was incorporate our media coordinator.  Once a week we had class in the media center where she could be available for help with research and questions.

For Project Presentation Night, we set up in the gym, and parents walked around talking to all the students about the their projects and discoveries.  You can view a little slideshow of that night here!

If you would like the outline and student printables I used for this unit, click here!  
If you have any questions about how to start this in your classroom, please ask!! I'm here to help :)

Happy Teaching,

Friday, December 23, 2016

Classroom Management Middle School Style: Strategy You Can Use!

I think we can all agree that middle school is such a weird time in a child's life. 
We've been there.  We remember the cringe worth hair cuts, unfortunate outfits, break outs, thinking the whole world is judging you, and the never ending drama. 
Ugh!! How do our students go through all that and still learn? 

In order to ease the burden, I made a conscious decision that for the 60 minutes students are in my classroom, they would be surrounded by positivity, acceptance, and love {Isn't that what we all want anyway?} 
In turn, they would give me their best and be a motivated learner. 
And it works.

My main strategy is so simple...
I tell them they CAN do it, make them repeat they CAN do it, and then the class celebrate when they do it!

Why does this work?
  • The brain believes two things...the words we tell and the pictures we make in our head. 
  • I absolutely do not allow student's negative self belief and talk to enter my class.  
  • When they say, "I'm not a good test taker!
  • I make them say, out loud, "I am able to demonstrate my amazing amount of knowledge on paper!" 
  • When they say, "I hate reading!"
  • I make them say, "Reading is a challenge that I'm willing to work hard at!"
  • Sure, they roll their eyes.  A lot.  But there is also a tiny smile on their face after they say it because they know I believe in them.  You HAVE to be persistent and consistent, but they payoff is worth it!

Do this for 180 days and you will be surprised how much effort and motivation your students will put forth !

{you can even use this in your own life! Instead of, "I can't stand this next class!!" Say out loud, "I'm looking forward to the energy and the excitement of the next class!" Your words become your reality!}  

Looking for more motivation and classroom management ideas and resources?  Click here! 

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Non Fiction & Informational Reading in the Middle School Classroom

Ahhh...non fiction reading.
Something all students love.  Every year when we start our informational unit my students are just bursting with excitement, eager to get started. They sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for me to depart knowledge of text structures, annotating strategies, and how to determine central idea. The first day of our non-fiction unit is only second to the first day of poetry.
If only...
I try to make non-fiction reading as engaging as I can. Meeting the students where they are in order to get them where I want them to be.

This is a two pronged approach...

1st: Picking articles that students can relate to.  If you have not had the opportunity to check out Newsela, you need to do so now!
This website has relevant, high interest, and up to date articles. You can adjust the lexile level of the article (differentiation, anyone?!) AND there are Common Core aligned quizzes!! AND, get this, it's all FREE!

2nd: I try to use as many hands on materials and movement as I can. 

{For example... }

  • I cut out these cute task cards and put one on each table.  
  • Everyone does task one on their own.  
  • Then, they rotate every five minutes with their groups.  
  • They collaborate on the answers, but everyone has to write on their own task cards.  
  • I rotate and encourage deeper thinking (meaning I ask, "why is that?" a lot! haha)

 {another example}

  • When I teaching students the difference between the central idea of a section and overall central idea, I use this fun foldable.
  • Students read a section of an information piece, then write the central idea {with textual evidence} on the flaps.
  • In the middle, they put all the information gathered together, to determine an overall central idea.  

With a little movement and some hands on activities, you will find your students engaged in your unit!
If you are looking for more Non-Fiction/Informational resources, click here.

 Happy Teaching,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Organized Middle School Classroom: a 7 day Guide

When I first started teaching, I really did not have procedures and established expectations in place.  I found myself getting frustrated easily, yelling, and losing precious class time to crazy and chaotic transitions.

 In order to keep sane, I knew something needed to change.  Since students NEED predictability and consistency in order to succeed, I came up with 6 daily procedures.

These procedures have completely changed the climate in my classroom.  Students know what's expected and specifically how to meet those expectations. There is no more yelling, no more frustration, and no more disciple problems (I only had 2 discipline referrals last year!)

The Procedures that Changed my Classroom
1. Bellringers
2. Daily Agenda on the Board
3. How to collect homework/papers
4. Controlling unnecessary movement in my classroom
5. Managing Transitions 
6.  Dealing with bathroom and students trying to leave class

You can have this calm and organized classroom, too! 
If you would like to see step by step how I did this click here!
{Includes printables and ideas you can use today!}

Happy Teaching, 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Free Friday: Active Reader Bookmarks!

Do you have those students that want to stare out the window when you're reading??
A student that struggles with staying focused on what they are supposed to be reading??
A student that needs a reminder that they CAN stay on task?!

How I use them:
  • Before I start reading, I review with my students what being an active reader looks like. ----> {Eyes on the page, as I read a word out loud, they read it in their head, jotting when asked to jot}
  • While reading, if I notice a student looking out the window, at the ceiling, tracking the dust bunnies scurrying across my floor, I quietly hand them an Active Reader Bookmark.
  • If they receive a bookmark, it is expected they use it to follow along. I should see it moving down to page as we read. 

These cute bookmarks are an easy tool to remind students they CAN stay on task.  In addition, it sets the expectation that you expect everyone to be engaged in your classroom!

Get your free bookmark printable here!

Happy Teaching,

Monday, December 5, 2016

Motivational Monday: Growth Mindset

How many times have you heard some of the following statements from your students...

"I am just a bad test taker."
"I hate to read."
"I'm not good at that."
"I'm stupid."
"I'm a trouble maker."

The sad thing is these are stories our students tell themselves for whatever reason. They constantly have this negative self talk running through their head.  Since your mind responds to two things, the words you tell it and the pictures you make in your head, your students are going to live up to these statements. 

So what do we need to do as educators?  Change the words they tell themselves.  It's that simple. 

Step One: Have your students write down 3 of these negative statements they believe about themselves in pencil. A lot of times they will write down statements their parents have said to them. 

I am lazy.  

Step Two: Change the negative statement into a positive one.  Use only positive language.  Write this statement in pen.

I am lazy
I am a hard worker. 

Step Three: Erase the negative statement so all you are left with is the positive I am statement.   

I am a hard worker. 

Step Four: This is the most important step.  Students need to display this somewhere they will see it everyday.  I have mine put it on the front of their binder.  They need to say these I am statements out loud to themselves everyday! If you hear them say one of their old negative statements, make them say the positive one out loud to you.  It's ok if they don't believe it at first. With enough repetition, they will start!  I promise.  

Happy Teaching...

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