Building Relationships that Matter

"I love Mrs. Fulbright, because she greets me with a warm smile and makes me feel special. She is the best teacher." ~ Payton C.

This comment was made by one of my dear students when he was asked to speak about me during a  filming that took place in our classroom. It truly warms my heart to know that I have not only positively impacted Payton, but many other children during my time as a teacher. After hearing these sweet words, I hugged Payton and he further explained that he knew just what to say, because I had spent time getting to know him ( spent time talking about his interests, visiting his ball game outside of school, gearing learning to fit his needs, etc.). To know that these simple gestures made that much of an impact made me really think about my daily interactions with students. Do I always greet them with a smile? Am I providing each child exactly what they need? Do they know I deeply care for their futures? These are some of the many questions I will continue to ask myself and actions I will ensure I take in my classroom throughout my career as an educator. What about yourself? Are you making these connections with your students? How? If not, why? What more can we do to build these lasting relationships with our students?

Why relationships matter

All people want to know that they matter and are important. As a teacher, I want to hear "Thank you, Mrs. Fulbright, for filling in for your colleague during duty today" or "Mrs. Fulbright, when observing today, I saw how well you manage your classroom." We all want to feel appreciated - even students. It's not our jobs as educators to make students think they are inferior; rather, we should lift up our students and make them feel wanted, loved, and appreciated. When doing so, students are more willing to give their absolute best for you.

I have witnessed this first hand throughout my journey as an educator. You come across that student you have heard is a behavior problem - you can do one of two things: 1) dread that they will be in your room and end up being miserable the entire year or 2) appreciate that you have the challenge and start from day one to build a relationship of trust with that student, making for a peaceful year. Of course, choice #2 has been my go-to strategy and has worked well.

There are many benefits of taking the time to get to know your students (academically AND socially): students appreciate you, students respect you, students can relate to you, students spread the word of positivity about you, students work harder for you, students remember you, students are successful because of you.


How to build positive, lasting relationships

We can pull mindsets into this conversation for both the student and the teacher. Students learn very quickly whether or not their teacher truly cares for them. If students have had negative experiences in the past, their mindset about the teacher needs to be changed. The only way to do this is through establishing a positive relationship from day one. Talk to the students about yourself, letting them get to know you and showing you are a real person - someone who messes up sometimes, someone who can joke around, someone who fails and tries again, etc. By doing so, they can learn to relate to you in some way. Maybe, you both played ball... or play an instrument. There are many ways to get to know your students: surveys, question & answer sessions, guess who game, getting to know you activities, and the list goes on. I have included some examples below for you to try. It's all about being real with your students. Once they see you are real with them, they will be real with you and very much willing to go out of their way for you. These type of connections will last make lasting impressions on you and each of your students.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share a Public Service Announcement video with you that focuses on the importance of building positive relationships with your students. Back in 2017, I was chosen by our superintendent to represent our school district on the Georgia Governor's Teacher Advisory Council. After serving on this team of teacher leaders, I was asked to be filmed to help promote teaching as a career. Thus, the Real Teachers. Real Voice. campaign began. Of course, I wanted my film to focus on the importance of building those positive relationships with students!


Resources to aid in building relationships with students
Student Learning Survey
Back to School Activities (MANY ACTIVITIES - could apply to many grade levels)
First Day Powerpoint (coming soon)
The Match Game (coming soon)
Posted on June 14, 2018

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Classroom Management Tips

At the end of the last school year, I felt it was time to move on to another school within our county. I had to interview for the position, and it brought forth a lot of exciting feelings and reminders about why I love being a classroom teacher! My last interview was 8 years ago, so during this recent interview, I found myself much more prepared and able to share so many things I have learned. One of those things was about a strength of mine - classroom management.

Time and time again, people have commented positively about my classroom management skills; however, I never realized this was a strength of mine, as they are things I do without really thinking about them - I guess they are automatic and just come naturally. To me, when someone mentions something I do, I just tell them that it just "makes sense." Since classroom management can make or break a teacher, I wanted to share some of the little things I do that make a BIG difference. Below, I will speak MOSTLY from an upper grades teacher perspective, but know that these same principals I have established were also used during my time as a Kindergarten teacher ;)



Building Regular Routines:

  • Homeroom Arrival - model and show students what is expected as soon as they walk into your classroom; have visuals listed or a chart listed with step-by-step what should be done; once you teach and show students the routine, do not allow them to disrupt it - meaning, if they come and ask you what to do or if they forgot, simply point to the chart. If you stop to show them and not let them think and figure it out (remember you modeled it for them) then they will depend on your to do this any time. My arrival procedures are as follows: 
  1. Place all notes to teacher or $ to teacher in the designated basket.
  2. Sharpen pencils and prepare all items for the day.
  3. Use the restroom.
  4. Begin morning work.
  • Final Dismissal - model and show students what is expected as soon as they walk into your classroom; have visuals listed or a chart listed with step-by-step what should be done; once you teach and show students the routine, do not allow them to disrupt it - meaning, if they come and ask you what to do or if they forgot, simply point to the chart. If you stop to show them and not let them think and figure it out (remember you modeled it for them) then they will depend on your to do this any time. My arrival procedures are as follows: 
  1. Upon teacher's direction, pack your items in book bag.
  2. Clean up any trash in and around your desk.
  3. Stack your chair and any chairs in your pod.
  4. Car riders line up (tell designated spot); Bus riders line up (tell designated spot).
  • Class Changes Arrival - If you are departmentalized, you will have students coming and going from your class. In order to keep you sane, and to maximize time, you will want to list the TOOLS needed for class. That way, you can train them to look as they enter the room and have those items ready as they are getting seated. This saved TONS of time!! For example, under TOOLS, I might list one day: Reading Notebook, Pencil, Sticky Notes. OR another day I might list: Check out Chromebook, Reading Notebook (all depends on that day's lesson). 
  • Class Changes Dismissal - Same is true for dismissal... if you want to save time, have a PLAN! I always have my phone set for 5 minutes before switching classes. Once this song begins playing, students will wait for my "go" and they know to do the following: pick up trash in their area, collected their materials and return my materials, stand behind chair for table dismissal. 
  • Supplies - I have supplies for the class, rather than making students carry their own or having any in pods. MOST students will carry crayons or colored pencils with them, so this is the only thing I do not have. This has worked for me, and has worked well. Why change it if it works!! Due to having a class set of materials, students have the freedom to come and go to get what they need. I provide: scissors, stick glue, tape, sticky notes, highlighters, hole punch, pens, etc. The only thing they MUST sign out and back in is if they borrow a pen ;) This holds them accountable. Once I teach them this, they do it quickly and quietly, if needed. I may have 1-2 students needing to do this each class.
  • Writing Utensils: I DO NOT allow students to sharpen pencils during precious class time; therefore, I do have pens in my supply area for students IF their pencil breaks and they do not have another pencil or if they misplaced theirs, they KNOW (as I model this) not to ask me for one... but they simply sign one of my pens out and back in upon dismissal. 

Gaining Attention/Sustaining Engagement:

  • Eyes on Teacher - This is a biggie in any classroom. You MUST have a way to get the students' attention, especially if you have a bunch of talkers! I have used many different chants, but my favorite has to be one that I allowed the students to help me come up with... "Hold up wait a minute, let us put some Fulbright in it!" I say: Hold up wait a minute; They say: Let us put some Fulbright in it. It is fun, and they LOVE it. The alternative (very quick one) I sometimes still use is 1, 2, 3, eyes on me! Find a chant you like, and stick with it. Again, train the kids or it will NOT work ;)
  • Group Work - TEACH the kids how to work in a group by setting criteria for group work - meaning, ask them what it should look like and sound like if they are working in a group. Based on their responses, create a chart. Using the words GROUP can also be a great way to set criteria. Each letter can represent something for group work. Practice and refer back to chart often. 
  • Partner Work - Practice how to work in partners. Assign partners OR have random partners... either way, set criteria to ensure that BOTH people participate equally. 
  • Model/Enthusiasm - To keep students engaged, model, model, model HOW and HOW NOT to do things. Show some enthusiasm and they will want to stay with you and participate. Find out about your students so you can also incorporate their interests to sustain their attention:) 
  • Use Visuals - Another thing that keeps them engaged is the use of visuals, plus it will assist your ELL and Special Needs students. 
  • Change it up - Change up lessons... have individual tasks, group task, tasks that involve movement from time to time, tasks that involve music, use technology, etc. SPICE IT UP ;) That way, they will always want to see what's going to happen in your class each day! 

Behaviors:

  • Relationships - I consider this a management skill. Building positive relationships with students is KEY to success in the classroom. If you go out of your way to know them beyond teaching them - like knowing what their interests are, then you have MORE chances of ensuring success with each child.
  • The Good - Point out when students are showing positive characteristics in the classroom: "Bobby is ready to start class, as he used the TOOLS chart as soon as he entered today!" "Sarah really shows she is following the GROUP work criteria by giving others a chance to talk." etc. These little reminders will encourage all students. REALLY try to point out a struggling child... this can go a long way.
  • The Bad - You will have times where a student does not want to get started on their work, are stalling, are bothering others, perhaps. What do you do? First, DO NOT SWEAT THE LITTLE THINGS... meaning, if it is something that is not hindering their learning or the learning of others, ignoring it is always a great idea. Sometimes they just want attention - and it is good not to make it a habit of giving them that negative attention. If it is interfering with learning, send them on a short errand to refocus their thinking. These usually help me! Then, there are some times that are unavoidable... The Ugly!
  • The Ugly - You may come across a stinker who may just be defiant or have some emotional issues, etc. If this is the case and you have exhausted all efforts OR if students are in danger, you need to contact the office and have the student removed. I have had to do little of this, as I believe ALL my other routines, structure, and building of relationships helps to prevent this from happening. 

Transitions:

  • Proximity - ANY time you have a transition, it is MOST important to BE in the hallway during the transition. Staying in your room and thinking they will get to the next location without difficulties (or because you have something last minute you need to do) IS a HUGE mistake. They need your body in view - this is a BIG deal. Any time I have visible during a transition, there are no issues. The only time I have seen a transition issue is when an adult was still in their room when sending the kids on to their next location... so BE there!! BE visible! 
  • Time Matters - Another important part of transitions is for ALL team members to synchronize their clocks (phones are great for this) to ensure all classes are ready and switching at the same time. If one is early and another is late, students waiting will get into trouble (leads back to the proximity tip;) and that will lead to one teacher having to watch over two classes (the one leaving and the one coming - NOT GOOD)! Avoid this as much as possible. 


Practice Makes Perfect (Close to Perfect):

One of my GOLDEN RULES is that nothing will work unless you are willing to invest time at the BEGINNING of the school year to practice ALL procedures and routines until they are done correctly!!!! DO NOT SKIP THIS! For lower grades (when I taught Kindergarten) it took me at least a week to establish smooth routines. For upper grades, a couple of days. DO NOT assume the teacher previous to you taught this. DO NOT assume students already know these things. THESE are BIG mistakes. If for some reason they 'get it' and do it right and later begin to slack off - be willing to STOP immediately and practice that routine. This does not happen often IF you ensure it is automatic the first few days of school ;) TRUST ME... the time you spend doing this WILL pay off in the long run and save valuable instructional time throughout the year!

MORE... 
There are SO many classroom management skills that I am sure I have not mentioned, so IF there is a specific routine that I did not cover (these were the first to come to mind), then please post a comment below and I will be happy to add any other routines!! I hope the information above will assist someone in some way! Thanks :)

Posted on July 24, 2015


Students take a journey through their texts

Found this post sitting here from March of 2014 that I guest posted, but never posted here:

How can we get students to review standards taught, yet continue high levels of learning? I have begun what I like to call a "Journey Through a Text," with my students. This is a great to:

1) Use when introducing a skill during mini-lessons
2) Once all mini-lessons have been taught and students have practiced the skills; it is a great way to review all skills independently on their OWN level.

First, it is important to have a plan at how to take your journey. What I want to do next year, that I didn't do this year (remember, it was my 1st year in 5th grade... still learning what works and what doesn't). My plan next year would be to introduce and model these skills with each novel we read. In doing so, they will have seen my modeling multiple times. PLUS, they would have practiced (with my guidance) multiple times. In addition, I want to make the process slow and steady. It is never a good idea to rush such deep work.

So, how do we take a journey through a text? I will show you step by step how to take the journey, which skills to focus on based on our 5th grade standards, and tell you a little about where students could go wrong with their journey, so you can be ready to get them back on track.

Here goes...

The skills/standards we will be working on are as follows:

* ELACC RL1
* ELACC RL2
* ELACC RL3
* ELACC RL4
* ELACC RL6

* ELACC RI1
* ELACC RI2
* ELACC RI4
* ELACC RI5

* Figurative Language
* Inferences
* Textual Evidence/Main Idea
* Textual Structure
* Vocabulary
* Sentence Structure
* Visualization
* Context Clues
* Summarizing
* Theme
* Character Analysis 
* Point of View


I will talk you through half of the "Journey" using the text Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

STEP 1 - choose a text; You can choose a novel to work on together (so you can model and practice together). This is what I recommend to begin with. Once you have completed a journey together at least twice, I would allow students to use an independent reading book (their choice & their level).


STEP 2 - Students will need to fill out their cover page with the text title, author's name, and choose 6 items to work on. Again, I would start slow... introduce one concept as you get to a mini-lesson about that specific skill. 


STEP 3 - Begin the journey. I will show you 6 of the 12 5th grade skills you can dig deep with. 

VISUALIZATIONS:

With this digging deep journey activity, students are to create a visual representation outlining the major points of the text. They must find a portion they have read that they can really visualize. Just saying: "The dog ran down the road." is not enough. If it said, "The gigantic German Shepard leaped effortlessly over the fence, as globs of slobber splashed here and there." then that would be enough details in order for us to truly visualize the scene. Students want to put general sentences here, but when you have modeled similar sentences, as I have below, they have a better understanding of what types of words and sentences can really paint a picture in their minds. 

 

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE:

After spending a lot of quality time with each type of figurative language, students begin quickly identifying these types within the texts they are reading. With this journey skill, students must dig deep to find an example of each type of figurative language, write the meaning of the example, and then illustrate. If for some reason the text you are working on does not have one of the types, then I had my students create one that would fit in their text. See some of my samples below:


CONTEXT CLUES:

At first, my students got this page and the vocabulary page confused. With this journey page, students review using context clues in order to figure out the meaning of unknown words. After modeling & practicing multiple times, students should be able to use the text around the unknown word in order to come up with a close meaning. Another skill we practice along with this is substitution. After reading around the unknown word, students can determine a word that would be similar in meaning, reread by substituting with that new word to see if the new word makes sense. If so, that could assist in determining the meaning of this unknown word.

Students are to find a word, and then they should EXPLAIN the meaning and HOW they figured that meaning out. Many students wanted to either "quote" the sentence with the word (incorrect); write a sentence using the word (incorrect); or write the definition of the word (incorrect). What must be thought about here is the process in which they took in order to determine the meaning.


TEXT STRUCTURE:

Not all texts are structured the same way. After reviewing the different ways, students can begin to look at key words, visuals, etc. in order to decide which type of structure the text was written. Rather than just tell the structure, it is important that students are able to communicate HOW they know. They need to back their response with some type of proof. Some of the structures we have discussed are Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Description, Compare/Contrast, Problem/Solution, etc. See the example below:


THEME:

Although texts can have more than one theme, it is important for students to figure out which theme is the overall theme of the text by providing enough evidence to support that theme. It is not enough to say that "Perseverance" is the theme, they must say that "the turtle kept going and didn't give up" as proof for support. Prior to identifying and supporting a theme, use picture books to teach mini-lessons to show evidence for many different types of themes. With this skill, students just wanted to list all the themes they could find. The proof is what makes all the difference!


SENTENCE STRUCTURE:

Lastly, I wanted to show how we review compound and complex sentences. My students have learned so much about these types of sentences through first identifying these types within texts they read. After identifying these types, they can then combine sentences in order to create these types. Here, they can practice writing these more fluently by taking simple sentences within their text and combine them to create compound or complex sentences. Here are two simple sentences that I have modeled.



I hope that this "Journey through the Text" has shown a deep way of reviewing many 5th grade reading standards. I am sure there are many other creative ways in which to review these standards, but I found this way very rewarding for my students. I sure hope that it can be a time saver for you!!

You can purchase this resource in my TpT store by clicking the image below:



Posted on June 23, 2015




Blogging in the Classroom

Some people have asked how I use a blog in the classroom, so I wanted to tell you a little bit about how I use my Weebly Blog as a classroom tool. Boy oh boy has it been a lifesaver!

All classroom teachers have their uniques ways they utilize digital tools. I do not claim to be an expert, but only sharing what has worked for me... and I hope will work for you ;) I started using Kidblog two years ago, but really like the features Weebly offers. For this reason, I switched over last year. The site is super easy to use and manage.



In this post, I will pinpoint the following:

Why use a blog in the classroom?

There are a few reasons why I use a blog in the classroom:

1) Students are now required to complete the End of Year assessment entirely online, which consists of constructed response questions (written portions). Providing opportunities to respond in written online formats throughout the year better prepares my students.

2) Blogging saves time and paper! I can quickly check work online at home or in class without having to lug 100+ papers with me! Additionally, it is nice not to have to make so many copies. When departmentalizing, I typically have between 85-100+ students, which = A LOT of paper. I do not have many paper/pencil assignments, which helps... but this is an added BONUS :)

3) Do you have super unorganized students? Well, with blogging assignments, students cannot lose their work ;)

4) Engagement and Collaboration - students enjoy having the opportunity to discuss work during class time or even while sitting at home! Some students who typically are shy to speak out in class will run with this opportunity (NO, this does not replace class discussion - it enhances it and helps spark discussion in class even).


What do I place on the classroom blog?

When thinking about what to post on your blog, think SIMPLE. SWEET. TO THE POINT. You certainly do not want to overwhelm students, but you want to make it enjoyable. For these reasons, I include graphics, occasional polls, and activities to earn additional points.

I primarily use the blog for students to respond to nonfiction articles. My goal is to ensure they are close reading and reading complex texts. Many times, I will choose an article from Newsela as the student can adjust the reading level. Other times, I will work with the SS and SC teachers to include articles to review or preview concepts for their classes. With each article (I can embed the article and they can download OR just place a direct link), students are to respond to the constructed response question (CRQ). I use my CRQ rubric to grade their writing. On these types of posts, I make sure the post comments come directly to me, rather than it posting on the site (so I can use it for a grade).

Other times, I will ask a question for them to have conversation about. It is very important at the beginning of the year to have guidelines in place when communicating online. In some instances I will even post class book reward results in chart format. I like to change it up and keep it active, which engages students and keeps it FRESH!


How do I manage the blog and use it effectively?

Managing the use of the blog does take a little time to get used to. I always check for completed assignment comments once a week (usually Friday night), but you can play around with it and see what works best for you. I use a checklist and the rubric to quickly grade their responses. I give them two weeks to read the article and respond, as I expect THROUGH responses. I do not always print out a rubric for each child. It just depends on the depth and purpose of the assignment. Please check out my Constructed Response sheets if you would like:

Constructed Response Strategy Posters & Graphic Organizers
Close Reading CRQs for Upper Grades (this has the Rubric I mentioned)

You need to be sure you are holding the students accountable (and is why I take the response for a CRQ grade) or they will abuse the use of the blog. Additionally, you need to provide class time (maybe homeroom or some other center time) to allow ALL students the opportunity to respond. We cannot assume they will have the means to connect online at home (all depending on your school's demographics).

How can I ensure students are using the blog?

To ensure students are using the blog, give them time to use the site! Make the time each week during homeroom, during intervention time when you are working with small groups, during any center time you may have, AND allow them to work on them at home. Just remember not ALL students will have connection to the internet at home.

Another way to encourage use of the blog is to place "extra points" activities on the site. I have a Big Book Buck$ program I use to motivate reading. From time to time, I will provide them additional points for reading and responding to other literature.

Lastly, I do require written responses on the blog every two weeks. By requiring an assignment, they must go onto the site. Once there, they will see the action going on and will hopefully become a more active participant.

How do I make it safe for my students?

You have control of the students who have access to the blog through the blog controls. You will have to play around with the settings a bit. When you set your site up, be sure to go into the settings and create specific members if you wish OR set a password (as pictured below):


Once you have your settings secure, you have the control over the site. You may also want to set it up for parents to interact (be sure to get signed permission depending on your school's guidelines). I cannot STRESS enough how important it is to go over the basics with students and be sure they know your expectations for their use on the classroom blog. 

If all is done properly, this can be one of the most SUCCESSFUL tools you can ever have in your classroom. Best of luck! If you have ANY questions, please drop a line in the comments!!

Posted on June 23, 2015