3 Instant Ways to Build Rapport with Tweens

July 6, 2016 / 4 comments
   This past year, I discovered some awesome secrets for building a fast rapport with my class.  I believe that the key to all academic success lies within the teacher's ability to connect with his or her students. When I saw these tricks in action, I couldn't help but share them!

Tip #1:  Establish Firm Boundaries

     This one has always seemed counter-intuitive to me. I've always started out my school year with three easy to follow rules: Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect Materials.  I had several seasoned teachers tell me that in 4th grade and up, you shouldn't have too many rules.  I noticed that several of my coworkers had no rules posted in their rooms at all.  I started thinking maybe rules over the age of 10 might just be an implicit practice.

However after two rough years out of three, I decided I needed a radical change, and that my rules weren't working as smoothly as I had hoped. This last year I started out telling my class that I had a lot of rules to follow, and I paraphrased Ron Clark's The Essential 55. 


"I figured the kids would be irritated with too many rules and resist them."  -My 1st thoughts on The Essential 55 Rules. 

     However, most of the kids seemed to have a sense of relief that there were rules in place to keep them safe.  I explained that a lot of the rules would help them make friends and get jobs easier in the future, and they seemed to revel in that idea!  They were so into rules, that they started asking me to read the rule book on days that I would forget.  After a couple weeks of daily "rule chats" during morning meetings, I noticed the class was behaving better than normal 10 year olds.  They were respectful, polite, and sometimes even charming

Tip #2:  Talk About and Use Social Media

   I had no idea how huge this concept was until I actually tried it out.  Now, I did have a handful of tweens who were not allowed to use social media, but for the most part when I mentioned "facebook, twitter, instagram or snapchat", the class was all ears!  I could relate any subject to social media, and I would have their full attention.  It was like magic!  Even the kids who weren't allowed to use social media in the classroom, knew about all the platforms because their parents and older siblings were on them frequently.  

   Snapchat and twitter tags were their favorite things to talk about as they saw facebook and instagram for "old people".  One of my former students had over 6,000 twitter followers because he commented a lot on soccer games.  Another of my students communicated with her cousins in Mexico over snapchat because international texts/phone calls are too expensive.  ALL the kids loved making up hashtags, and I would get a lot of giggles making up my own during lessons.  On the playground my students would say "can you snapchat this?".   They just thought it was the coolest thing ever, and the best thing was being able to connect with students who normally had an "attitude".  As soon as they knew I had a snapchat, and that they could be on it with a permission slip, I was suddenly relate-able to them!

     As for my parent permission slips, I had a separate one for each form of social media, and I let parents know that I had no intention of doing close ups of their child's face- I was just interested in "action shots" to share with my online teacher community.  I also told parents that I would approve everything that got put up (in the tween age group-- I think parents just want to know that you're in control and you're checking on everything). This seemed to ease the parents minds, and I only had a couple of parents against social media due to personal or religious beliefs.

Tip #3: Add Music to Lessons

    Ok, so I'm not Ron Clark!  I can't dance or sing, and I'm horrible with song lyrics.  I can however research pop music, and add it to a playlist.  This I can do!  I let my students listen to music throughout the day (especially when I see a spike in poor behavior: it's great leverage, and it calms everyone down a bit)

These are the main events I use it for:
Before School Prep (I play music, and kids come into help me)
Transition Times (Between Subjects or Activities)
Games (scoot games that transition to music)
Reward Time for Meeting Goals
Birthday Celebrations
 Holiday Parties
Funny Moments
Lesson Warm Ups
During Clean Up Time

     Kids LOVE music.  They REALLY love it, and they will bend over backwards to hear their favorite songs. There are some things I learned that don't work however, and here is my short list.

 Tweens usually don't like 1. your favorite music (because yuck! old people), 2. Kid Bop anything, 3.when you don't let them choose  4. if they cannot dance or move a little bit  5. too much of the same thing.

     So in order for this to work, you need to find popular music on a big playlist, and let them choose it.  With nasty lyrics, it can be challenging, but I found a somewhat easy solution.   I search for clean song lists on streaming sites like Spotify!

     Here's a screenshot of my Spotify. For $10/month I get unlimited music streaming, and I can usually find everything I'm looking for... I most often download other people's playlists-- like this one called: clean pop music even your kids will listen to.  It's 40 hours of music!  Depending on my student's preference, I will take their favorite songs, and save it to a new list.

     On the side you can see that I created my own list called "School Days"  There are songs in there that I know I can play for kids without issues.   Remember to listen to all songs before you play them! 

Extra Tween Power Moves:

Talk about the latest movies with them.
Talk about their favorite TV shows.
Be silly with a sock puppet.
Have a class mascot.
Bring food into lessons.
Give them a piece of gum for no reason.
Teach them a new handshake or dance move.
Get emoji anything.
Share stickers with them.
Set up an "art table" for lunch/recess.
Get a class pet.
Wear a fake tattoo.

I hope these tips worked for you!  Leave me questions in the comments!



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Ten Tips For Moving Into Teaching As A Second Career

July 2, 2016 / 1 comment

Many people know their whole lives what they want to be when they grow up.  I've met a lot of teachers who have told me they "knew" since they were 8 years old that they wanted to be a teacher. There are also some that feel the calling as an undergraduate because they like kids or enjoy the sound of it.  Then, there are the rest of us.

Before I was a teacher I had these *illustrious* job titles:

Dog Washer
Balloon Counter Manager
Rent-A-Car Manager Trainee
Group Home Life Skills Attendant
Wedding Invitations Telemarketer
Casino Phone Operator

   Believe it or not, half of those jobs required a 4 year degree! The truth is that unless you know people who know people, nobody hands you a job after college unless you are extremely lucky.  I so happened to have majored in finance and graduated just months after the 9-11 tragedies.  Finance was probably the worst major to be in during this time period.  So, I did what many of my classmates did: I moved back home and worked in menial jobs.

With 30 approaching quickly, I wasn't feeling too great about my place in the world.  I lived in an apartment with roommates, and I had no savings or money for retirement.  I looked into several positions and I applied for three grad school programs (business, teaching and social work).  The teaching program accepted me quickly, and the classes started within a week of my acceptance letter, so I jumped with my eyes closed, and I've never looked back.  

Here are my tips for those of you thinking of jumping into a teaching career later in life.  I don't have any regrets, but I do wish I knew these things before getting into it!

1.  Research graduate school programs carefully.  Some of my friends have paid 12k and others upwards of 100k.  We teachers make similar amounts of money (but never enough to justify student loans that are bigger than house payments), so go for a cheaper program!

2. Just roll with the punches.  Everything changes in education constantly.  What you learn today will be obsolete tomorrow; however, everything also gets "recycled", so you'll probably see it or hear of it again.

3.  Yes, There are a million hoops to jump through.  Just take one hoop at a time.  Use your college advisors and professors for help because they've all been through the same hoops.

4. Substitute teach to figure out which grade is for you. When I first started I thought that I was a sure fire high-school teacher. Then I subbed in a high-school for a week, and I quickly discovered that I wasn't ready to handle big people.  Everyone is different, and each grade level group has a totally different vibe when you're stuck with 25 of them all day long!

5. Teaching is NOTHING like what you see in the movies!   There are zero if any life changing moments,but there are constant little flickers that will keep you going each day.  They all sort of roll together at the end of a school year to make everything "worth it".

6. Start walking a lot now to get yourself in shape for your "average" day.  Also, get used to eating a healthy breakfast, a tiny-protein filled lunch (<-- healthy salads don't always work when you don't get to go to the bathroom all day long-  soup, half a sandwich, or a bag of almonds sometimes is more practical), and teach yourself how to prepare easy dinners.  

7. The pay is not *horrible* in most places, but do your research before going to school.  Some states pay entry level teachers 20k a year while others start more around 40k.  My state pays much more to "rural" teachers than city folk, so I moved to the sticks.  Several of my coworkers from Montana and the Dakotas moved to my state because they didn't realize how low teacher salaries were there.  So do your research before you make the plunge.  The good thing about teaching salaries is that they are usually made public on your state's department of ed website! 
 No smoke and mirrors for public servants! 

8.  Research the endorsements and licenses that your state or district needs the most, so you can depend on being in "high demand" when you get out.  Big demand areas include- Special Education, Autism Specialties, Math & Science for 8th grade and up, and English Language Learner Certificates.  These areas are liquid gold for trying to get a teaching job.  Any tech experience GREATLY helps as well. Every school seeks "tech people". 

9. School isn't the way it used to be.  When I went to high-school in the 90's, we sat in rows and read from books and listened to lectures.  This is not how school looks anymore.  The teachers who are married to this idea of "old fashioned" school struggle to connect with kids in modern aged classrooms.  Nowadays, kids need constant collaboration, and they need talk more than the teacher talks.  In the ideal classroom, the kids are choosing what they learn about, how they learn it, and in some cases even where they sit.  There's much more freedom, and I see a lot of teachers with strict ideals struggle to get kids to "behave" in the old fashioned setting.   I like this change, but it was DIFFICULT for some of the adults I went to teaching college with to accept this new era of education.  Like I said, even current TV shows and movies do not depict classrooms the way they really are now. 

10.  You can do this!   Teaching is a blessing as it's like no other job on the planet.  Compared to other jobs I've worked, I receive a lot of respect as a teacher, and I've had 1,000's of good interactions versus a handful of negative ones.  There's a lot of freedom with how to structure your day, and you usually get a big "office" (classroom) to decorate however you like.  There are a lot of like minded people to connect with (both kids, parents and fellow teachers).  The day goes by fast- even too fast sometimes.  The job is never boring, and there are always new things to try out.   The best part is that you're always in control of your environment.  Even if you have a negative principal (ie, boss), you usually only have to deal with that person for 10%-20%  of your day (unlike other jobs where they might be watching you *constantly). 
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Direct Sales for Teachers

June 25, 2016 / 1 comment

Lets's face it.

    A lot of teachers have side hustles going because teacher salaries aren't exactly the most lucrative in the world.   So many teachers I know are dabbling in the world of direct sales.   In this world, the teacher sells products from a company to his/her friends using social media and "parties".  The teacher gets a percentage of sales and usually some free products out of the deal.  Popular direct sale companies include Younique, Jamberry, Pampered Chef, Melaluca (I may have spelled that wrong, and my husband would kill me since he used to work there, and it was his *favorite job), Origami Owl, Stella and Dot, LuLaRoe, Avon, Mary Kay, Scentsy, It Works, Beach Body, and well you get the point!    

Dealing with the ads on social media can sometimes be overwhelming to say the very least.  Today I wanted to go on a scavenger hunt to find weirdo direct sales companies that could be of interest to a teacher entrepreneur- who doesn't want to do what all her friends are doing!


Product Line:  Beauty Supplies: They specialize in all natural scrubs
Cost: $35.00 to enroll and then you buy a "pack" to start
Focus:  Empowering Women of Color

   I read a neat story about a seller from this company teaching her skills to local high-school students.  Since the buy in is low, she was able to start a network of teenage sales people, and her success just exploded from there.  More importantly, she taught these young people how to manage their money and make wise investments.   I love this idea so much!

Product Line:  Underwear
Cost: $99.00
Focus: Boosting Women's Self Esteem in a Safe Environment

    So here's the gimmick with this company:  their underwear is comfortable, long lasting, and it makes you look instantly thinner.  You can imagine what their big selling point is here.  I read a lot of stories online about women making an extra 20k while traveling around to bridal conventions and other types of clothes conventions selling this product.  It's one of those: try it on, and you will buy it type of businesses.  If you feel comfy as a bra peddler, I think it would be cool to look into!

Product Line:  Pink Colored Women's Tools
Cost: $139
Focus: Empowering Women through Skill Building

    I'm not going to lie, the name of this direct sales company made me cringe a little bit.  I started reading about their mission though, and I thought it was really cool.  They encourage their sellers to hold workshops where women can learn basic construction and home improvement skills.  They've also donated 300,000 to breast cancer research.  Also, why shouldn't tools come in more colors?  

Product Line:  Affordable Legal Services
Cost: Around $100
Focus:  Providing Affordable Legal Services to Families and Individuals

    I had to read a lot about this company before adding it to my list.  They've been around for years, but their direct selling branch hasn't done so hot.  Why am I bringing it up then?  Well, I believe there's a new market of teacher entrepreneurs that need legal services!  Teachers don't have tons of money to invest in legal fees, and for under $20/month, they can get the help they need.  I think it's a cool opportunity to use this company to tap into an untapped niche market!

Product Line:  Smelly Waxes
Cost: $99
Focus:  Unlike Scentsy You Can Mix Your Scents Together!

      Remember those little ice cream dots that you can hold in your hand but also eat?  Yes!  I do too.  Unfortunately, you can't eat these little dots, but I think the concept is novel as I would love to be able to mix and match scents!   I use a lot of wax Scentsy bars in my classroom, and sometimes my wall outlet burner isn't big enough for two wax scents (I'm constantly mixing and matching).  Again, this company is a very typical direct sales company.  To make money you need to have LOTS of parties!

Product Line:  Bags, Bags and More Bags
Price: $99
Focus: You're unique, so why not initial it up?!

    I'll never forget the first day of my Management 330 class.  The instructor looked at each of us and he said "the sweetest sound to any human is the sound of his (her) name".  I never really forgot that lesson.  It's so important to use people's names, and this Initials Inc seems like a great company to share the love of individualized services.  I also read that they are doing well financially and they are a real up and coming company in the world of direct sales!

(say what?!)

Product Line: The Yumminess Above
Cost:  Who cares?!   I mean $85.00
Focus: Making Teachers Happy Everywhere!

     Ok, so I saved the best for last!  I am ashamed to say that I had no idea that you could sell the most delicious chocolate in the world out of the comfort of your own home!   You can also make serious money eating this delicious food.  According to the website, an average of one party per week, can make you almost $500.  I'll take that.  I also heard they are very generous sending their hostesses extra food and goodies.  Where do I sign up?!   

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the *lesser known* direct sales.  It reminds me of the lesser known regions in Beetlejuice!   Maybe I need to change my graphic now?!

Have a great weekend!


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10 Easy Jokes for Kids

January 6, 2016 / Leave a Comment

Here are 10 easy jokes for teachers to tell to kids!

What’s the fastest way to screw up a knock knock joke?
Say It’s Open!

Why did the scarecrow win an award?
Because he was outstanding in his field

What do you call a black lab that becomes a magician?

Why don’t you see giraffes in elementary school?
They’re in High School!

What’s the longest piece of furniture in school?
The Multiplication Table

One time a computer beat me at chess, but it’s okay, I beat it at kickboxing!

What do bulls do when they go shopping?

Why didn’t the 11 year old go to the pirate movie?
It was rated ARRRRRRRRRR

What do you call a snowman with a 6 pack?
An Abdominable Snowman!

What do snowmen call their offspring?
Chillllll   dren 

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Rejuvenate Your Classroom

January 3, 2016 / 2 comments

Dear Teachers,

I have 5 things I'm doing this week to REJUVENATE my class for this new year!  First of all, keep in mind that your students probably missed you and the cozy environment you have provided them. They also may have witnessed stressful times which could effect their behavior on these first days back!  It is so important to love them and cherish them during this time all while reminding them of classroom rules and procedures.   It's always an interesting week, but it can be a great NEW START for you to redirect the overall vibe in your classroom!

Here are FIVE things I'm going to try this week to bring the SPARK back to my class in a BIG way!

Thanks for reading!

    I watched Kim Bearden's scope last week on Creativity.  Here is the link to that amazing scope! She talked a lot about being a mom who lets her children explore their creative sides.  In one story, she talked about how she had a wall in her house that her daughter could paint on anytime she liked.  Over the years, friends would add to her painting.  Kim figured the worst thing that could happen was that the wall would be hard to paint white again.  This creativity wall allowed her daughter to express herself in a controlled and responsible way!

   Classroom notes:  I would like to have a creativity wall in my classroom.  I will hang up white butcher paper, and I will supply a variety of art supplies.  It's probably just going to be 3 foot by 3 foot space to start!  Sudents will need to earn the right to decorate the wall.  I'm hoping this may motivate my more obstinate students to get on track with their responsibilities.  

     I'm going to have my students choose their "word of the year" from this FREE positive character trait's list!  Click here for an easy printable!  Then, I'm going to steal Literary Vomit's art lesson: where she printed out her word, made a pencil lead transfer, and painted around it!

Classroom Notes:  I had no idea that you could make a paper transfer with pencil lead!  This is going to CHANGE my art lessons!

   I'm going to try a new teaching strategy called the true false reflect chant.  Here are the directions.  For a new lesson- think of 5 true or false questions for that lesson.  These should be questions that the students will learn the answers to by the end of the lesson.  For the opening of the lesson, you will stand in front of the room and tell your students you want them to nicely shout out the answer (true or false) to each of your questions.  It's really fun seeing which way the students will swing and how "peers" will tend to influence them to change their answer.  It's also enjoyable to include a hand or arm movement with each answer (one for true and one for false).

    After your lesson, you will have the students reflect on their original answers and explain on paper or to a partner why they were right or wrong. I think this will be a fun way to induce energy to the start of a new topic!  

     As many of you know I tried out Donor's Choose for the first time last month, and I had great success!  I funded two projects- one for 3 new ipads (my school as zero), and another for 2 class sets of books along with basketballs to help me stamp out bullying!   I'm going to now start learning new apps that I can use on my ipads.   A new teacher to the social media scene is Kami Butterfield also known as Teaching with Apptitude, so this month I'm going to zoom in on her zany and fun ideas for APPs in the classroom.  Please check out her blog here: Teaching with Apptitude and her tpt store here: Fun APP inspired products: click here!

     I have #2getherwearebetter written on my board, and I have printed a sign of it for my other board!  Knowing we have ipads coming to our room, I want to teach my students about #happyclassrooms and #2getherwearebetter!  They need to learn that the world is a much easier place when we work together to accomplish our goals.  That is a difficult idea to master in the upper grades/tween years.  I am going to show them this video of collaboration.  It's beautiful.  Every voice counts in making the music come to life.  Every year this is a huge hit and kids BEG me to play it everyday.  

Classroom Notes:  I always make the students guess before hand what will be missing from the video.  Many of them don't even realize that there is not a single instrument playing in the video.  I explain to them that this is the kind of magic we want happening in our groups.  No instruments (arguments lol) interrupting our music!  

Thanks again readers!  Happy Teaching!!!
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Whimsical Goals for 2016 #2getherwearebetter

January 2, 2016 / 10 comments

This month I am so honored to be a part of Ashley and Angie's #2getherwearebetter linky party!!!

This month's theme is:

Read and then reread ALL of Ron Clark's Books!
Read Kim Bearden's Book- Crash Course.
Participate in the Crash Course Book Club on SheilaJaneTeaching.com
Go to the Ron Clark Academy!

     Notes:  I am completely obsessed and enamored with all things Ron Clark Academy.  If you do not know, The Ron Clark Academy (RCA) is a 5th-8th grade private school in Atlanta Georgia.  The school was started by Ron Clark and Kim Bearden- two phenomenal educators of our modern age.  RCA is known as the best school in the world because every second of every day is spent on the engagement of its students.  Teachers sing, dance, and stand on desks.  Students are pushed to complete extraordinary tasks while learning about the world that they will travel with the school.  The school is indescribable, and I cannot wait to visit it THIS YEAR!   Eeeek!

I want to do everything it takes to:
make sure every student exceeds all academic expectations 
use the latest teaching ideas in strategies in my practice
add technology and high quality books to my school through Donor's Choose
help my students become more empathetic to the world around them
continue genius hour
attempt a social awareness genius hour

Notes: Thanks to my involvement on social media, I have tried so many fun things this year with my class.  They are truly a great set of kids.  I'm going to come back from winter break with more gusto than ever before and hopefully I will push them to exceed their own potential by the end of this glorious school year!  I really want every single one of my students to know that I care about their success in life even after they leave my classroom.

I'm extremely creative, and I'm always working on something
My goal this year is to finish more and start less. 
I would like to develop a thicker skin in the business world.
I want to try out videos for my blog and youtube.
I want to learn how to do a podcast.
I just want to share my zealous energy for learning, children and teaching with the world!

Notes:  Last year, I learned about social media, and I learned how to speak my true voice on social media.   This year, I want to take that a step further and speak my true voice in the business world.  I want to invigorate and excite educators and I want to encourage teachers to enter the business world through teachers pay teachers or wherever else they may feel the *urge* to explore.   I'm going to take all these goals day by day and journal my progress in a 5 year- one line daily goals and progression diary!   

A big thank you to Angie and Ashley for putting together this amazing linky party!  You can go check out their blogs by clicking their icons below (they are the first two icons!), and please check out the other amazing educators in this #2getherwearebetter  #2016goals submission!

May you be inspired and blessed throughout this new year!!
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10 Activities for Thanksgiving - Upper Elementary

November 15, 2015 / 2 comments

Here are 10 things I do in my classroom every year for this holiday season:

1.  I have the students make a "what I'm thankful for quilt".  This quilt we make out of old jean scraps, and kids write one thing they are thankful for on each square.  I hang the quilt in the hallway or in my classroom.  At the end of the year, kids write essays to win the quilt.

2. Kids write parents a thoughtful "Thank you" book.  I usually have 10 writing prompts over 10 days where kids analyse things they are thankful for (from mom's cooking to their favorite color making the world more beautiful).

3. We give parents these thank you books during our Thanksgiving Day celebration in my classroom.  On the last day of school before T-Day break, I invite all the parents to a pot luck dinner.   I ask kids to bring one "culture filled family favorite to share with the class. I decorate the tables with nice table cloths and set the "stage" for a real family style dinner.  It's always a classroom favorite!

4. I ask kids to write cards to staff members in the school.  The janitors usually get pretty emotional as not many people thank them for their hard work!

5. Kids go out and pick up litter for 10 minutes each day of the week to say "thank you" to the Earth for providing us with beautiful land!

6.  Kids write thank you letters to their favorite authors for writing their favorite books.  It's really exciting when kids get letters back!

7. Kids write thank you letters to veterans and active duty soldiers (we usually do this around Veterans day).

8.  Kids make turkeys out of left over trash.  We call them "found turkeys".

9.  We write acrostic poems out of the word "Thanksgiving".

10.  I use these freebies on TPT:

Thanksgiving Writing Paper:

Free Thanksgiving Reading Comprehension (4th-6th grades)

Multiplication and Division Turkey Trot Game:

I hope you have a great holiday!

Please hop over to another great 5th grade teacher's blog:

Angela from The Organized Planbook!!!

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