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5 Ways to Keep Students Learning Over the Summer

   

As a teacher, we all know about the summer learning loss syndrome (and I am talking about the students, not the teachers).  It would be ideal to keep students learning through the summer. How do we do that? Here are 5 ways that might keep your students on the learning path:

·         Get them to a library! 
     Almost every library in America has a summer reading program with incentives and nice librarians!  Taking a quick field-trip to the local library in May to hear about their summer activities is a great place to start.  No money for a field trip?  Bring the librarian to the kids.  Invite the librarian to your classroom to get kids excited.  Kids who may not be avid readers, but don’t have exciting plans over the summer, might see the library as a refuge.  Some libraries even have free snack programs.  Check to see what yours offers.

·         Email your future students. 
     Before school gets out for the summer, collect those new names and emails from last year’s teachers and introduce yourself.  Even if you don’t know which students will be yours, send out emails to the whole grade on a weekly basis with a little tidbit about yourself and co-teachers and a Pinterest project, a scavenger hunt worksheet, or a YouTube tutorial they might want to do that week.  Just that little reminder of school keeps parents and students on track!

·         Do a student challenge. 
     Take time that last week of school to head over to your future-students’ classrooms.  Tell them how excited you are that they are coming to _____ grade!  Give them a list of things you hope they will do over the summer so they will be ready to learn in your classroom. Say you bet they can’t get all of them done – truly make it a challenge to them! A student who’s excited about you will want to work for you! Think of it as a pre-teaching exercise – make sure there’s lots of fun things they want to do on the list like play Frisbee golf or go shopping for the cheapest ice cream at the grocery store.  Be sure to email the parents your list, too.  Recreational activities are still learning opportunities!

·         Enlist the help of local non-profits. 
     Send students home in May with bags of free activities from local non-profits or lists of activities going on at those non-profits.  Many cater to kids whose parents work full-time in the summer, and they will be happy to have your support!  If you convince parents that these activities will allow them more free time, they will be on board, too! The YMCA offers programs.  Many churches offer Bible School opportunities.  Whatever keeps kids engaged, and moving, lessens the summer slide!

·         Encourage kids to volunteer! 
     The best way to learn about the world and make it a better place is by volunteerism.  By actively engaging their minds in something new, they are fighting the summer setback!  Kids can go online to see all their options and find something that fits their tastes.

·         Write code to change the world.
     And for those gamers we all have, send them to the Hour of Code website.  Tell them you want to see the game that will change the world when they show up in your classroom next fall.  Sure, it’s still gaming but with a purpose!  A gamer is only a gamer because they want to beat the challenge.  Maybe you will spark the kid that fixes a world-problem.  That’s what’s great about teaching. As teachers, we aren’t with our students all summer, but we have to know that if we teach them passion for learning, they will continue it, with, or without, us.  These 5 ways to channel summer-learning are a good start.




Top 25 Things Teachers Need to Accomplish this Summer




This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure here.
So you’re probably thinking to yourself that you don’t want to have to get 25 things done this summer, but you’re a teacher – you know summers are for catch-up! 
Just remember that a good teacher knows life is best when balanced, so work, play, and enjoy!

#25 Drink an umbrella drink!  Nothing makes it feel like summer to a teacher more than an umbrella drink on a patio in the sun for lunch on a weekday!
#24 Schedule those nasty dental and doctor appointments so they are out of the way and not taking you out of the classroom.
#23 Spend a little time on Pinterest.  Pin some new curricular ideas to your boards so when you’re too tired to think in September, there will be no thinking involved.
#22 Make the bulletin boards now!  The last thing you want to be doing the day school starts is making a bulletin board.
#21 Start scouting out cheap supplies.  Think garage sales, dollar stores, and back-to-school sales.
#20 Join teacher clubs to get the best deals – Loft, Joann Fabrics, and Michael’s have discounts just for showing your work badge.
#19 Take classes.  Get those continuing education classes out of the way or take a class on outdoor yoga at your local Y.  Remember what it’s like to be the student.
#18 Make plans with friends. The school year is packed, and this is your chance to see the ones you love.
#17 Make changes to insurance.  There’s never a good time, but getting enough insurance or changing your insurance occasionally can save you some serious teacher dough. 
#16 Read.  As teachers, we know the best thing any student can do is read. We are no different – read books, magazines, or teacher blogs in the sun!
#15 Freshen up your classroom with new seating, rugs, or shelving!  I always think students are more excited when their classroom is bright and shiny.
#14 Binge-watch. The Crown, Call the Midwives, Sherlock (I am on a British TV kick), whatever gives you a smile, should be on your screen.  September will be here before you know it.
#13 Set up your calendar.  Label those in-services and days off right now!  One less thing to do when school starts.
#12 Get organized.  An organized house and an organized classroom make for less chaos and less stress.  There are great organizers out there for everything!  Books, Legos, Crayons, etc.
#11 Write your Congressmen.  If you feel frustration with the educational system, take a few minutes to send an email.  Feel good that you’ve voiced your opinion and exercised your civic rights.
#10 Order that new water bottle to force yourself to keep hydrating on a long day with kids! Personally, I am obsessed with my Hydro Flask. It keeps your drink cold for 24 hours! I love to have water, juice or whatever I am drinking at the moment (no one will know if you decide to fill it up with Diet Coke) in there to carry around as I take my kids to the park, pool and other summer adventures. Plus, how cute is this color?   




#9 Get some fresh air.  It’s hard to find time for those fun outings during the school year.  Do some gardening, check out your local park with your pets, or take a long walk.  It’s good for your mind.
#8 Make it Christmas in July.  Whether you make your Christmas gifts or order online, I like to get that knocked out over the summer so December is a little less crazy.  Whether it’s family members or students, put name tags on in December, and you’re done!
#7 Rest.  The school year gets hectic.  This is your chance to refuel and regroup.  Take those afternoon naps.  They will feel good!
#6 Find some good shoes.  Teaching is a never-sit-down job.  The right shoes can make all the difference, and who doesn’t want ones that look sweet, too? Toms are my ABSOLUTE favorite. They are both comfortable and cute. Plus, this style doesn't wear out too fast. 
#5 Pick out that first-day-of-school outfit!  Starting off the school-year in a well-chosen outfit feels a lot better than showing up as a hot mess on a hot day when the A/C probably won’t work! Lol.
#4 Get some escape games ready for your students. Escape rooms have become a popular way to get kids up and moving, while also working as a team. These games also offer a focus on different teaching standards. Students won't even realize they are learning!








#3 Check out Teachers PayTeachers.  Whether you’re looking to buy, or not, get inspired on the topics you find most difficult to teach!
#2 See your family.  There are moments during the school year that you feel like you see more students than family.  Love on the ones you truly want to be with when you have a little freedom.
#1 Take a vacation, even if it’s a staycation!  You need to be fresh and happy when school resumes!
A happier teacher makes a happier classroom.  These 25 things are sure to start your school-year off right!


While teachers should get some planning in over the summer, they should also make sure to take some time to relax!






Kindness Shouldn't be One of a Kind

Why is kindness important at school and in education?


Kill ‘em…with kindness.

The other day I was having a conversation with some of my mom friends. The end of the school year is wrapping up for our kids. I was mentioning how sad my son will be when the school year ends, because he loves his teacher. I do too! She is so kind. I felt it the moment I walked into her classroom and met her for the first time. She has a welcoming smile and a very patient and happy attitude. She treats the kids as her own. Kindergarten teachers are angels sent from heaven, in my opinion, because that is one job that requires a TON of patience and organization. Being kind has set the tone in this teacher's classroom. Students, my son included, look forward to school. These kids recognize it as a safe place to learn and grow. As it should be for all students.

Ever since we were little we’ve been told to be kind to others. Unfortunately, this is a character trait we sometimes forget. While being unkind can sometimes be easier, and let’s be honest, instantly gratifying, it doesn’t get us very far anywhere, especially in the classroom. Being consciously kind in the classroom can create a better environment filled with respect and strong relationships. Along with a positive classroom environment, you will get one of the best gifts of all.

Alright, so we have to be kind but what does that look like? Being kind as a teacher can take many different forms. Here are some easy and quick ways to be kind to your students AND your fellow teachers (and maybe even your administration).

1.       Compliment: See a student with some cool new kicks? Rock on! “I love your shoes!” See that someone got a new hair style? A quick and easy “Hey I like your hair!” can go a-long-way especially if someone is feeling a little down. Don’t just compliment for the sake of complimenting. Make sure it is GENUINE! Students will be happy that you took notice of them in general and your coworkers will start or end the day with a little pep in their step.
2.       Be a helping hand: Do you know that your colleague is freaking out because testing is coming up and he/she just can’t get little Sally to stop eating her pencil? Offer up some advice or, if you can, sit in and help Sally stay on task--that’s even better. See a student who can’t get his/her locker open? Don’t just walk on past, help them out with that tricky combo. 
3.       Take interest:  Pay attention to what is going on in your students’ lives and listen to what they have to say. This is important because it is a nice thing to do, but it can also create a great relationship between you and your student. You can also take interest in your co-workers. You may find that you have more in common with them and make a new teaching best friend!



4.       Offer a hug: If a student is looking down or a fellow teacher is looking a little glum, offer them an ear and then a hug. Sometimes this small gesture can go far! Make sure you have a good understanding of the person’s personal space though. You don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable. If someone is not a touchy feely person, do not force yourself on them, that’s a whole different issue!
5.       Pause before you speak: This is where that instant gratification can be a problem! Sometimes people say things to us that are rude or unkind. Sometimes, make sure you’re sitting down for this one, students can say things that sting. While our instinct may be to fire off the first thing that pops into our head, the better idea is to pause. Take a breath and then respond. Giving yourself even a few seconds of wait time can make a huge difference as to HOW you react. Responding with kindness will help keep the relationship you have with your student/coworker positive.

There are many, MANY ways to be kind in everyday life as well as in the classroom. One of the best parts about being kind in the classroom or your school in general is simple: the environment will be forever better. If you are kind to your students, they will have respect for you as a teacher. They will, most of the time, reciprocate that kindness back to you. When you are kind to your fellow teachers or administration, they will most likely return that kindness as well. So when you need a smile, a hug, or a helping hand, they will be there to help you out!



Now, I know most of you are wondering about that gift I mentioned earlier, after all, presents are pretty awesome to get! One of the best things about kindness is how it spreads. If you drop a rock in the water, there is a ripple that spreads out around the area where you dropped the rock. If you drop a bit of kindness, it will spread and every time someone drops a bit more kindness the ripple gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Eventually the ripple will reach your whole school! When kindness reaches a whole school, you have an environment full of respect. You have happier students. You have great relationships. The cherry on top? Productivity. When you allow kindness to be a central part of your teaching and your classroom, you get a productive, respectful, positive classroom. Who doesn’t want that? So, kill ‘em…with kindness.  







Why is kindness important at school and in education? Teachers need to be examples of kindness.

8 Reasons Why You Should Use Escape Room Games in Your Classroom

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


Have you heard about the latest new craze taking over classrooms? If not, let me fill you in, it's called an escape room. Imagine, you and your students are locked in your classroom with a band of swashbuckling pirates. These pirates are holding you and your students hostage! The only way to escape is to solve a string of questions and riddles. Will your class make it out in time?

 These escape room games set the stage for some sort of risky situation, like being captured  by pirates, or having your entire classroom overtaken by monsters, while also giving students a specified amount of time to break free. These new and educational games are something you and your students do not want to miss out on. My particular escape rooms are titled Cracking the Classroom Code™. If you aren't convinced already about how fun these games are, let me give you 8 reasons why you NEED to use escape rooms in your classroom today.

1. Engaging and Fun. An escape room game places students in a situation that prompts them to quickly become part of a scenario. If students are unable to complete the tasks given them in time, they risk never escaping the new world they have entered. These games are exciting. Students are not just given a worksheet and asked to complete problems; they are immersed into a game that requires thinking, moving, and collaboration.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


2.  Teamwork is a Must. Often, these games are played in small groups of 4-5 people. Students must learn to rely on one another, as well as share their own talents with the group. These games cannot be played alone. One student may be good at reading clues, while another might understand puzzles quickly. As students learn to help each other, they will be able to master the game, and escape in time. These games are not for one player, but meant to encourage team participation.


Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


3. Get Kids Thinking. Don't throw another boring paper at your students, instead, get creative and set an escape room up. Escape room games help exercise critical thinking skills as students solve puzzles, riddles, and clues. For instance, in my Cracking the Classroom Code™ games, students will be asked word problems, be given riddles, puzzles, and more. In some cases, students must be asked to open their envelopes in a specific order. Students must figure out what that order is, so they can escape correctly. Also, clues are hidden throughout the classroom. By reading the clues, students must brainstorm together, and figure out where to find their next envelopes.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


4. It's Challenging. Escape room games are unique. They require students to think outside the box, and problem solve in new ways. Students will be thinking in different directions, while discovering skills they may not have known they had. Instead of grinding away at a worksheet, students can challenge themselves in such a way that they won't even know they are learning! Students are not just memorizing facts, or practicing a skill, they are applying what they learn, and using it to solve problems.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


5. Hands-on Learning. These games allow students to manipulate clues, and work with their hands. Many games require manipulatives, puzzles, or other materials, so students can have hands-on learning, that turns into minds-on learning.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


6. Imagination. Escape room games require lots of imagination as students are thrown into a pretend scenario. However, the more they get involved, the more fun they will have. If students pretend there really is a band of pirates taking over their classroom, the pressure to escape becomes fun, challenging, and exciting. All of a sudden, students are racing to finish their clues and problems, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


7. Social Interaction. These days, kids are inundated with ways to interact on the web, but not so much in person. Students are more concerned about online "likes," than impressing the person next to them. Escape games give students the opportunity to interact with their peers. These games provide a comfortable and entertaining atmosphere, where kids don't need to feel forced to interact. Instead, they feel like they need to, because they all have a common goal of escaping the scenario at hand.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


8. Technology Integration. Many escape game rooms provide a technology component. This is a fun way to hook students, and appeal to their interests. For instance, my Cracking the Classroom Code™ games have the option to use QR codes. Students must scan the QR codes and make sure their answers match the ones on the codes. Otherwise, students will need to rework the problem. An iPod, iPad, or other device that has a QR scanner is needed for the QR code component. However, my games have an option provided that does not use QR codes as well.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.


Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

So, be sure to try an escape room with your class today! What is one of the most AMAZING qualities of my Cracking the Classroom Code™ games? Once you have played one game, you can play them all. Each game is unique, but the template of the game remains the same. So, if you play one game with your students, you can play a second one, but still create a whole new experience. Students will be familiar with the rules, engaged, and begging for more.

Find my Cracking the Classroom Code™ escape games {here}!





Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.



Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.

Escape room games are perfect for any elementary classroom. Students try and escape a risky situation in a specified amount of time. My Cracking the Classroom Code games are available for kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Math and language arts escape games are available.




Make Your Own Magnetic Write On/Wipe Off Letter Board


Make your own magnetic letter board, that is also dry erase! Have fun with literacy centers, learning letters, reading and writing. This is an easy, DIY  project, that only takes minutes, You and your kids or students will love how engaging it is. Learning letters and reading just became more fun!

Are you a teacher needing a quick literacy center idea? Or a parent needing a fun and easy way to help your child with reading and writing? Then look no further, because I have the cutest, and simplest DIY project for you. The good news? It'll only take MINUTES to create, and will be loads of fun. Here is a look at the finished project:

Make your own magnetic letter board, that is also dry erase! Have fun with literacy centers, learning letters, reading and writing. This is an easy, DIY  project, that only takes minutes, You and your kids or students will love how engaging it is. Learning letters and reading just became more fun!

The supplies I used are: 
1. A cookie sheet (I found one for about $3 at Walmart).
2. Dry erase tape--I got this fun blue color at Target.
3. Button magnets.
4. These letters printed out on your favorite color of cardstock (you can click on the image to download, or find the PDF {here}):
Make your own magnetic letter board, that is also dry erase! Have fun with literacy centers, learning letters, reading and writing. This is an easy, DIY  project, that only takes minutes, You and your kids or students will love how engaging it is. Learning letters and reading just became more fun!


Make your own magnetic letter board, that is also dry erase! Have fun with literacy centers, learning letters, reading and writing. This is an easy, DIY  project, that only takes minutes, You and your kids or students will love how engaging it is. Learning letters and reading just became more fun!


Once you have all the supplies, go ahead and cut four strips of the dry erase tape to fit on your cookie sheet. The tape is easy to remove and re-stick, so don't sweat it, if you don't get it positioned right the first time. 

Once the tape is on, cut out your letters. Use a glue gun to attach the letters to small button magnets.

That's it! You are ready to write. Use a dry erase marker to write on the tape. 

This activity can be used to practice letter matching, writing and building sight words, or even writing sentences. Good luck and have fun!

Watch the video tutorial below:


                                           
                                                                (Music by Ben Sound)




Make your own magnetic letter board, that is also dry erase! Have fun with literacy centers, learning letters, reading and writing. This is an easy, DIY  project, that only takes minutes, You and your kids or students will love how engaging it is. Learning letters and reading just became more fun!






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