Friday, August 4, 2017

Creating a House System in my Fifth Grade Classroom #RCAinspired


*In September of 2016, I was lucky enough to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. If you haven’t heard of RCA, make sure you check out their website and videos; you’ll be INSPIRED to say the least. RCA holds professional development days where teachers from all over the country can come and watch their unique techniques and strategies for creating respectful, knowledgeable, and strong, young leaders. I attended a one-day workshop, and I left feeling excited, inspired, and motivated to make my classroom and teaching methods the best they could be.

*One component of RCA that really resonated with me was their house system. They sort their students into four different houses, and the students can earn points for various things. The pride and love these students (and teachers) have for their houses is unreal. I knew I needed to incorporate it into my own classroom as soon as possible. But how? When? I decided to wait until the following year, which is this year, to implement it. I struggled trying to decide how to manage this new system; What would they receive points for? Do I take points? Do I keep the houses the same all year? Should I be rewarding them monthly, quarterly? I didn’t know!... and I started to second guess my decision. Then I read The Engaging Station’s blog post, which you can find here. She confirmed just how awesome this system could work when you put enough time and thought into it!


*Students will be assigned to houses at random through the help of this handy-dandy wheel. 

Disclaimer: I painted it from turquoise to black, and I laminated a piece of blue over the orange to go with my colors. When I placed the magnetic wheel on my whiteboard, it slid straight down! However, when placed on my chalkboard, it stayed extremely secure!
*I printed my house shields, laminated them, and then taped them to my wheel insert. The names of my houses just came from Google translate. I typed in the four words I wanted my houses to represent, and I just had them translated to Latin. The wheel insert actually had three colors similar to my shields, but it also had an orange section. I simply took a piece of green paper and laminated it right on top to cover the orange! BOOM!...IT MATCHES. 

*I'm going to be sorting students on the very first day...or the second day if I don't think there will be enough time. I'll first start off by explaining the system so they're all jacked up about it! They will then come up to the wheel and spin!
*Once a student spins a house, their Class Dojo icon will immediately be changed to their house icon. (Instructions for this will be included in my TpT file.) Class Dojo will be pulled up on the SmartBoard for all to see. A quick note about Class Dojo: I’ve used this behavior management system for the past two years and I LOVE it. Although it’s great for managing behavior, my favorite component of the site is that it allows you to easily connect with parents. You can send messages back and forth, and you can also share what’s going on in your classroom in a quick way. (The story option is very similar to Facebook’s format, and I use it all of the time to share reminders, pictures, and videos of our classroom happenings.
*I have twenty-four students this year, so I am limiting my houses to six students each. Once a house has six students in it, no other student will be allowed to enter that house. The student will just re-spin until they obtain an available house.


*When a student needs a point either given or taken from them, it will be done on Class Dojo. For example, let’s say Avery earned a point for demonstrating leadership. I would either award Avery the point myself, or have her quickly award herself using my iPad. It’s extremely quick and simple!
*The great thing about Dojo is that it allows you to place students in groups as well. This means that you can award your houses points directly to every student in that group without having to actually click each individual student. 

HOW IT WORKS- timeline, incentives, etc.

This is the part that I struggled with most, and I’ll be honest, I’m still thinking about it! Here’s a quick rundown of what I’m thinking:
*After students are placed into their houses, I will ask them to “run” for house leader. They will write a letter explaining why they think they would be a great house leader. I will select one student from each house and reveal them at the end of the first week. Team leaders will meet with me every few weeks for lunch to discuss motivation, teamwork, ideas for house spirit days, and incentives they’d like to see.
*Points will be awarded throughout the week to individual students for Dojo points (so they can cash them in at our class store) and groups.
*On Fridays (at the end of our class meeting), the team’s points will be revealed, and we’ll determine current totals and all-time totals. This will be laminated and we will updated the numbers with a dry-erase marker.
I think I’ll do a few different incentives for my students (monthly and then an overall winner). I’m only thinking I need to do more than just a yearly winner because I want to keep it fresh and exciting. I also want all of the teams to have a chance to experience some success. These incentives will be decided on with the help of my team leaders, so the incentives below are just EXAMPLES:
MONTH WINNER: This will change out monthly! The first month, the team with the most points might get to have lunch with me. The next month, they might get a homework pass or be allowed to bring in a drink/snack. 
YEAR WINNER: Ice cream party!
*Choose incentives that work well for you and your students!


*Go above and beyond explaining your points to your kiddos. Give them examples! That first few weeks of school, you’ll probably be giving out the most points. You want your students feeling excited and motivated to be their absolute best. 
*These are things in my classroom that are non-negotiable. They’re expected to be respectful, on-task, tracking the speaker, etc. Think of what’s non-negotiable in your room.


*Either before or after class meeting (I haven’t decided yet), we’ll have a little spirit session where the houses will compete for extra points. I only plan on doing this at the end of each month right before the winning house is revealed, but you could absolutely do it weekly or quarterly.
*Each team will have something to show the class. Either a fun dance, rap, poem, handshake, etc. that represents their house. The entire house can present, or they can have different people every time. I’m going to leave it up to them. Some of my students are not into things like shaking it! I don’t want them to feel like they have to do that. All houses will have a chance to spin the wheel for extra long as they gave their best with their performance. The wheel will have points on it ranging from 5-50. Whatever they land on, will be what is added to their house. Those points will quickly be added to the totals, and the monthly house winner will be revealed.

It's going to be a learning process for sure, but I can't wait to get started! If you're interested in my shields and documents, click HERE!

***2018 UPDATE***
After a full year with the house system, I've decided to make some changes for the future.
1) I will be adding two more houses. There will be another class that I see for 80+ minutes every day, so I want them to be included in the house system. If you have my house shields from TpT, don't worry!...those new shield styles will be added to the file.
2) I won't be using Class Dojo. Our grade level team will all be using SeeSaw next year for parent communication and student portfolios, so I don't want to add Class Dojo to that mix as well.
3) A running score of points will be kept on the board instead of saving and sharing the points at the end of the week. I like having the students see their current totals, and I really like having the students be responsible for updating their points. My student assistant was the one who kept track of the points towards to end of the year. If I said, "Nice job, Quantum! 10 points!!"...she would jot it down quickly and update the points when she had time. You could also have your house leaders be the ones to update the current totals.
4) I'm no longer doing individual points for students. My students were way more concerned about receiving house points than individual points for their Dojos. If I awarded them individual points, they often asked me if I could make them house points instead. With that said, I won't be having a classroom store anymore. 

Thanks for sticking with me through this long post! :)


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Interactive Google Presentation for Multiplying Fractions

Use these two interactive slideshows to introduce multiplying fractions! These two slideshows take me approximately three math lessons to get through, but they've proven to be worth it after my students have demonstrated they conceptually understand what it means to multiply a fraction by a fraction and whole number. Each of your students will need access to Google accounts to use these slides! Links provided at the bottom of this post.


Happy multiplying! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Keep the Quote

Hey friends! I've been tackling a lot of my Instagram questions through Periscope, but I thought it would be beneficial to create some blog posts as well! So, here we go.

One of my favorite parts about my classroom is an idea that was inspired by one of my amazing students. 


As soon as he brought up the idea I knew we just HAD to bring it to life. The only question was, "How do we do this?" You can imagine my excitement when I found the amazing roll at Target three days later. I may have screamed "OH MY GOSH, THIS IS PERFECT," but I can't remember. This roll is seriously perfect for this concept, as the quotes need to be kept after being displayed. The paper came with it, but I refilled it using our school butcher paper after it ran out (I just cut it to the size I needed). ***BUT*** you do not need a fancy roll to pull off this concept. You can use basic, large sheets of paper to write your quotes on. Tape them up or place them on your magnetic whiteboard/chalkboard. Don't want to write them? You can also type the quotes up and print them out, or you could have your students write the quotes. :) Many possibilities!

What is Keep the Quote?
Keep the Quote is a fun, weekly goal-setting system used in my classroom. Students bring in quotes that they think our class should use as a motto for that particular week. My kiddos bring in their quotes on Monday morning. (It is completely optional if they bring one or not.) If there is an overwhelming amount of quotes, I simply just put their quotes in a bin and select approximately four.  I read the four quotes aloud and the students listen. We then vote on which quote we like best. The student who brought in the winning quote explains what that quote means to them, and we discuss how students could earn that particular quote. For example, if the quote was "Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody. --Kid President", we would explain that our class should be trying to actively make others feel good about themselves. They need to be giving compliments to others and making sure that others are included.

I write the quote on the paper during my prep or after school on Monday. On Friday, we then review our success following the quote and select one student to actually KEEP THE QUOTE. Get it?! Anyway, the student selected has to be someone who was really demonstrating that quote. I have the student who brought in the winning quote select the recipient (I help them with this at first). The student has to go up on our stage and explain the quote's meaning once again and the reason that they are awarding the quote to the recipient. The paper is ripped off, given to that student, and then a new quote is added the following week.

My students truly love Keep the Quote, and I hope yours will, too! :)

To see this concept in action, visit the hashtag #KeepTheQuote on Instagram,

 Happy Quoting,

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Establishing a Classroom Community with the Help of your Whiteboard

Hi, friends! I've had quite a few people ask me about my whiteboard messages that I use in my classroom, so I thought, "Why not make a blog post about it?" Here we go!

WHY do I do these messages in my classroom?
*I pride myself on creating a classroom that genuinely feels like a family. A place where students love to be and love the people that they're with. A place where students set goals and encourage other students on their journey of meeting their own goals. I want my students to feel like they are in a safe, judgement-free zone where they are respected by not just me, but by their peers as well. Each time I complete one of these boards, I feel like my class is getting that much closer to being a true family.

Students need daily reminders about the importance of friendship and community. They need you to give them opportunities to see how just simple actions can truly make someone's day. and they need you to make them feel loved and appreciated. If you can get your students all supporting and fighting for each other, they're going to carry that with them for the rest of their lives. These simple messages are so meaningful to my students, and I hope they have the same impact on your students, too.

How do I come up with my board ideas?
My messages are focused around two main components: goal-setting and kindness. The main questions that I ask myself when thinking of a new message are:
What do I want my students to be thinking about?
What are my students needing to hear?

After sharing my whiteboards on Instagram, a new hashtag was started: #miss5thswhiteboard. I get a lot of inspiration for new ideas by browsing through the feed. It's an amazing feeling being able to see so many different teachers and classrooms utilizing these messages in their classrooms. I encourage you to check out the hashtag on Instagram for whiteboard ideas- you'll find plenty! :) I also have a list of prompts available for download here.

How often do I write a message on my board?
*On average, I complete 2-3 boards a week. I write the messages so that students see them first thing that morning. Sometimes I repeat the boards we've already done, but the wonderful thing is that each day is different. You could do the same board over and over and you would get different responses each time!

When do my students respond to the message?
*My students know that if there's a message on the board when they walk in that morning, they can answer it any time between 7:40-8:20 (our morning work time). I usually only like 2-3 students at the board at one time, so my students know they need to wait their turn. I also have students who come in at 7:40 and then others that come in at 8:05, so the staggered arrivals kind of eliminate the "crowd."

What markers do I use?
*Expo, folks. Plain, old Expo markers. :)

Happy boards, happy students, happy teachers!