Saturday, September 29, 2012

Promoting a Positive Classroom Environment...EASY!

I discovered a book that I think has been floating around for a few years and is probably well known to many of you, "How Full is Your Bucket?" I owe a million thanks to Mrs. Motion, our new guidance counselor for sharing this story with my fifth graders!

 Initially, I thought it was a nifty story and forgot about it for a few days until I heard one of the kids say, “That’s NOT filling someone’s bucket!” I reread the story and decided that this was definitely something we needed more of to encourage a safe and positive classroom without anything too complicated! And so, our bucket fillers were born. I scrambled up a too small bucket and printed out a few slips, and discussed appropriate times to complete a “bucket filler” for someone. THE SLIPS WERE GONE within the hour!!! I figured the kids would do it for a few days and then it would die off, but that was about 3 weeks ago. Since then, we have had hundreds of bucket fillers read to one another and the students are even starting to write them for past teachers, resource teachers, and my substitute who was just thrilled to get a positive compliment from a student. I have also found that the bucket fillers are a way for me to reach out more frequently to recognize all students for the little steps they are taking to improve themselves…and watch them smile!

 At first, there were a lot of “thanks for being a good friend” or “you are so nice,” but as I praised the really specific fillers and introduced my own specific praises in bucket fillers, the kids have begun to notice the small things they do for one another. This has been such a positive and simple classroom management strategy! I use the bucket fillers during almost every transition and the kids are just dying to hear the next one, making transitions super efficient.

Students also began writing bucket fillers to me which was a nice surprise.  Sometimes it's nice to know the kids notice the little things you do!  I started keeping them on my big blue cabinet behind my desk and before you I knew what happened, it was covered and I started adding them to the neighboring wall!  I hope you are able to experience as much fun as we've had with this book!  Click any of the images for your bucket filler slips.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Parent Night Scavenger Hunt

Time flies! We are already three weeks into the school year and had our parent night on Thursday.  I am not a public speaker, to say the least.  I can do without the sweating, rapid heartbeat, and nervous stutter...hehe...give me kids- not adults!   This freebie was certainly created with the kids in mind, however, I have a sneaking suspicion my subconscious had a hand with this one.

Click the picture for your copy!
We do so much in such a short period of time that is not visible for everyone to see, and the kids are usually really excited to let their parents in on a few of our nifty happenings.  So rather than me standing up and doing the traditional "teacher speech," I let the kids drive the night.  We create a list of the things they most want to share with their parents and the kids become our tour guide.  I have a newsletter with all of my pertinent information to hand to the parents at the end as well as a rolling slide show of important stuff for everyone to review while their kids are dragging them all over the classroom.

On this year's scavenger hunt, a few of the kids' favorites were their "Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups" stories we are working on to introduce the writing process, their Word Study folders because they are already stuffed full of words, their mnemonic name classbuilders, and our Hooked on Books reading incentives.  Finally, they have to introduce their parent and teacher.  The awesome part about using this activity is that it frees you up to speak with each parent individually as their children introduce you.  I also get such a kick out of hearing how excited the kids are to share their early success with their parents.  By the time they are done, the parents always say, "No! I don't have any questions!  They told me EVERYTHING!"  It creates a very positive atmosphere for parents, students, and teachers to celebrate a new year together.

The text portion of the file is fully editable so you can add your own activities to show off, but the background has been flattened to preserve copyrights. I hope you can use this in your classroom and have a super parent night!  Have a fabulous school year.

:0) Heather  aka "Wild About Words"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Get $150 in free books! Easy to do!
Who can resist free books?  A fellow teacher passed this opportunity to me and I signed up right away...about a week later I got an email letting me know I needed to order my $150 worth of free Magic Tree House books!  If you work in a Title I elementary school, you are eligible for $150 worth of chapter books and the awesome Fact Trackers, all courtesy of Mary Pope Osborne!  You have to submit a short proposal and be sure to mention the Books A Go Go name in the application as it says in their home page.  I think their program specifically links to the $150 in books.  I am so excited to get my books in the mail!  This is the perfect program for my fifth graders...we are going to use paired sets to analyze fiction (with the chapter books) and nonfiction (with the fact trackers).  And...because they are a little lower in level, I can accommodate all of my readers and still challenge my more confident guys with more advanced activities!  We are just waiting for our box of books to arrive!  Good luck and I hope this helps get you more books for your classroom!

UPDATE ON 12/22:  Because I received this quickie grant and became a member of their distributor,, I got an email that offered $100 in books, "No strings attached."  I figured they would charge shipping and was broke but checked into it anyways and found their special offer of free shipping with a $100 purchase!  Ten minutes later, my cart was full, I entered the code, received the free shipping and voila....we got our a books a few weeks back- and they have a great variety at more than 50% off.  We got two complete Lightning Thief hard cover sets, 10 Bad Kitties of varying titles, a bunch of Beverly Cleary titles, and 10 or so Franny K. Steins.  A HUGE set of books for 100 even!  I definitely recommend applying for this grant and for sure, register on to get their emails.  Happy holidays!

:0) Heather