How to use Google Forms for writing conferences



Do you conduct writing conferences in your classroom? I am going to share with you an easy and efficient way to conference weekly with your students to improve their writing.

"I love writing conferences!" - is this a phrase that you would say? I don't know about you, but until recently this is something that I never would have uttered. After meeting with my first five students during my writing block, writing conferences would drag on and on and on and on and on.... I often felt like I was not giving meaningful feedback to each child because I was rushing to meet with all 30 students in my classroom. I hated that my writing conferences began feeling like a waste of time. I rushed through them, didn't take good notes, and felt like my time was not being well spent.

I didn't want to stop writing conferences- but I did want to change the way that I did them to give them a PURPOSE. I think that conferencing weekly with your writers can potentially make an enormous impact on students. It is so beneficial to students to read their work aloud and to have instant and immediate feedback with a teacher.

I knew that I had to make a change if I wanted writing conferences to be both efficient and meaningful in my classroom. After a lot of brainstorming, I figured out a way to implement writing conferences that would enhance the writing ability and experience in my entire classroom.

What did I do? Well, enter my best friend, Google Forms. I earlier shared about how Google Forms transformed my anecdotal note taking. Guess what? Google Forms is here and ready to transform your writing conferences. You know what is especially awesome about Google Forms, besides the ease of instantly entering data? All your data turns into a spreadsheet at the click of a button. This is PERFECT for administration evaluations. Let's be honest, spreadsheets will always make you look about 100% more organized. I will let you know right now- your administration will love this. They make ask you to share this with the staff during a meeting or write up an email about it. Get prepared to look like the most organized and tech-savvy teacher there is!

Here are the steps to create the Google Form for writing conferences, and how to use it to save you time and make your writing conferences as valuable as they can be.


STEP 1: MAKE THE GOOGLE FORM
Firstly, make sure that you are signed into the Google account that you use on your school computer. I have a personal and school account, so I always log out of my personal one when I set up Google Forms.

Go to https://www.google.com/forms/about/. Click the purple + sign that says "Blank" under Start A New Form.

Change the title to "Writing Conferences."

Click the +. In the scroll down box, find "Short Answer." Write "student name" into the question. This is where you will write... the student's name.


Click the + on the side bar. Type in "writing piece". This is where you will write what the student is working (personal narrative, expository, biography, etc.).


Click the + on the sidebar. Change to "short answer." Write "Highlights."

Click the + on the sidebar. Change to "short answer." Write "Feedback."

Done! Your Writing Conference Google Form is now complete. Now what?


STEP 2: BOOKMARK IT TO YOUR COMPUTER

You want your writing conference form to be easy to find. Otherwise, you are not ever going to be using them. Thankfully, bookmarking on your web browser makes this simple! Here is how you can easily find the form in order to bookmark it.

I always send it to myself via email. Click "send" in the upper righthand corner when you are all finished. Type in your email address and push "send" again. The link will go straight to your email. Click the link, make sure to BOOKMARK it on your school laptop to make your life easy. Remember: you are more likely to use something if it is easy to get to and right in front of you.



STEP 3: MAKE SMALL GROUPS AND CONFERENCE

I love doing conferences as a group. Why? Firstly, it saves time. Secondly, students get to hear one another's writing. Everyone grows as a result. It is incredibly powerful to hear writing from one's peers. My third-graders love hearing other students' writing, as well as sharing their own. If I had a student who was clearly uncomfortable with reading, I would either put them in a small group or confer with them 1 on 1.

In the beginning, I generally group by ability. Put your strongest writers together, lowest writers together, etc. The reason I like to group by ability is because I think it can be discouraging to my struggling writers to be in a group with the next Ernest Hemmingway. When we are working on giving feedback to others, I want my students to feel comfortable sharing with the group.

Call the group of students to the table. Each student will read their writing out loud to the group. As the student reads, start filling out your form. Write down their name, the type of writing, highlights, and feedback. You don't need the data- the form is automatically dated! Don't write full sentences, just quick words or snippets for your notes. After the student reads to the group, give them a few compliments on their writing ("I love your descriptive language! You broke up the paragraphs well. Your topic sentences were well written."). Then, do a few spots for feedback ("next time, try and sum up the paragraph with a closing sentence").

By segmenting your students into groups, you can easily meet with all students during the week!


STEP 5: LOOK AND ANALYZE AT YOUR DATA
Why have all this data if you don't use it? Now, want to see something cool? This Google Form information is easily changed instantly into a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets have an uncanny ability to look impressive, not to mention are just darn effective and functional. Definitely show this off during your administration evaluation!

First, click "responses" when in edit mode.


Next, hit the small green axis.


Tada! Your spreadsheet is made and ready to be used!




STEP 6: NOW WHAT?Writing conferences will help you plan your future writing lessons. What patterns do you see in the data? Are there a few students that struggle with rich vocabulary? Is the majority of the class having difficulty with paragraph structure? Form your guided writing groups with this information. Reading and math small groups are generally flexible- your writing groups should be too! Form new groups with this data to focus on a particular skill. Your writing conferences can serve as a way to sort your writers' strengths and weaknesses and help find a particular area to work on. Ultimately, this should be the goal of writing conferences. Conference with your students to find where and how to help improve their writing.
I hope that you found at least one or two things useful in this post. Do you use writing conferences in your classroom? What tips or tricks do you have?






How to make your word study paperless

How to make your word work in word study paperless

Mention the phrase "word study," and I immediately think of an enormous amount of prep work. Between the differentiated word lists and big packets, word study tends to be paper galore. However, using Google Classroom you can transform this paper nightmare into paperless!

Did you read my post about creating a paperless literature circle? Word study is another area that I felt overwhelmed by the paper packets sitting in the corner of a room. I think I may have a packet phobia. I am afraid that I am missing one and need to run to the copier. I am afraid that a student spilled their hot chocolate all over theirs and I need to run to the copier. I am afraid that a student left theirs at home and I need to run to the copier. I am afraid that a student accidentally left it next to the recycling bin and I need to run to the copier. Do you sense a pattern here? Clearly, I have a phobia of the copy machine. But you know what? I have a solution for all my lovelies out there equally afraid of the dang copy machine, taunting you with its low toner, long line, missing staples, and sudden lack of paper.

Do you do word study in your classroom? There is only so much teaching time in a day, and I find that word study is a good opportunity to focus on reading skills that the kids need to know. For example, much of my word work centers around using a reference book, or alphabetical order. It is the perfect way to practice the word study patterns while integrating an important part of the necessary curriculum. I want to share with you how I do it in my classroom! You may do something similar, or you may not find that this is something that you're interested in your classroom.

I broke down the steps to having a paperless word study program below!

STEP 1: CREATE YOUR GROUPS
Use a word study spelling inventory to find out what level that all your students are at. From this point, you can easily differentiate instruction. I generally get about four groups. I tend to use color groups in word study (I also have differentiated groups in reading and math- so many group names!). I remember the group level and color by thinking about the Earth. Green group = the grass (lowest group). Red group = flowers (second lowest). Blue group = the sky (second highest). And yellow group is the sun (highest). This way it is much easier for me to remember when I am preparing words and trying to remember who is in which group! However, any group names that works for you is fantastic!

I use a spelling inventory from Words Journeys to create my groups. However, Teachers Pay Teachers has many inexpensive spelling inventories that you can use!


STEP 2: PREPARE THE WORDS
Stop by your school's professional library and grab a copy of Words Their Way, (this is an Amazon Affiliate link) or a similar word study approach. This is where I get all my words for the week from!

Generally, I have four groups in my classroom. Keep in mind that I have a self-contained gifted classroom of 30 students- your groups may look totally different from mine! For example, my group of kiddos has no one in the LN level. My lowest group starts at SJ.

GREEN GROUP: Start in beginning of SJ book
RED GROUP: Start in middle of SJ book
BLUE GROUP: Start in beginning of DR book
YELLOW GROUP: Start in middle of DR book

Your groups may look totally different than what is listed above - that is great! All classroom's needs and abilities are different. Do what works best for your classroom.


STEP 3: CREATE THE ACTIVITIES
What kind of activities do you want your students to do for word work? The following are my favorites! You could create them on Google Slides, or if you want to save time I have a resource called Word Study for Google Drive that is already done and ready to go! My product is geared toward third and fourth-grade students.

The following are what I like to do in my classroom and I have already created on my Google Drive resource. You may have additional activities you like, or you may not like some of my ideas.

How to make your word work in word study paperless
ABC Order: Student type their words in alphabetical order. ABC order is difficult for third-graders and is generally tested on in most states. I use every opportunity that I can get to utilize this essential life skill!

Brainstorm: Students need to first write what the word pattern is for the week. Then, they brainstorm additional words that follow this pattern. I like this because it gets kids remembering what the pattern is, and uses critical thinking skills to apply it to other words. Word study is all about applying a particular pattern to other words!

Dictionary search: I always have the kids use an actual dictionary for this. It utilizes ABC order and using guide words, both reading skills that my students generally struggle with. Like ABC order, I grab any opportunity that I can take for my kiddos to practice this!

Drag it: Many state tests use technology enhanced questions now, and students need to know how to drag-&-drop and interact with the device. Students utilize that feature by dragging letters to spell their words. It helps them practice the pattern of the week.

Rainbow words: Okay, I know this one may seem more like a "little kid" word study activity, and I have read before that other teachers do not find it effective. But you know what? My students love this one. I am okay with them doing one slightly less effective if it means that they are enjoying it! Plus, color-coding is good for the brain. Maybe have them make all the prefixes a certain color, or color code a particular vowel vowel consonant pattern.

Story writer: Get kids creatively writing with this one! Students write a story, whatever they would like, using some of their words. You could also have them create a comic or graphic novel using the toolbar in Google Slides.
How to make your word work in word study paperless

Thesaurus: Using a reference book and understanding synonyms/antonyms is a third-grade standard in my state for reading. Kids will practice how to identify synonyms using a particular reference book. I have a stack of thesaurus' in my room. Students will grab one, then look up their word. Many of their words are often not in the thesaurus, so they continually practice this skill while searching for the ones that are. They also become more familiar with what words do and do not have syllables.

Word origins: Students use a website to find the etymology of their word- where is the word derived? This is such a fun activity, and I love how excited that kids get when they discover where the word originates from. I think this is a good way for students to also realize the evolution of words and globalization of language.

Word value: Insert some math into your word work! Students will add up the cost of their word, using a key equating money to letters. You could also make this more challenging and use multiplication.


STEP 4: ASSIGN THE SLIDES
Great, you have your activities all set! Now, you need to assign the activities to students. There are two different ways that you can do this. Remember- not all the groups have the same words!

  • WAY #1: Type all the words onto the slides ahead of time, then assign to each student based on their group. For example, send the yellow group word study pages to Alice, Bianca, Claire, and Daniel if they are in the yellow group. Send the green group word study pages to Edward, Frank, Greg, and Hannah. And so on! 
  • WAY #2: This is the way that I prefer. I assign a blank copy to ALL students. They will be writing down the words and sorting the words WITH ME at teacher time during literacy stations.

Don't know how to assign slides? Follow my easy step-by-step guide to do it for Google Classroom!



STEP 5: SORT THE WORDS
I like to sort the words WITH my students to ensure that they sort them correctly. On my Word Study for Google Drive resource, I have a page for sorting the words. I do this with each group. I'll call a word study group over, they'll sit at my small table. I have an iPad or laptop out for each of them already. Students quickly log on to their Google Apps account and pull up their assigned word study assignment. I have a small whiteboard, and we discuss each word and where to sort it. They follow along and type the word into their device to ensure that everything is sorted and ready to go. They do not do the activities with me, those are independent! They are simply sorting the words with me to make sure that the understand the pattern of the week.


STEP 6: STUDENTS DO THE WORK!
Students will complete one assignment each day. I tell them they can do any of them that they would like! I love giving my students choice with their work to allow self-differentiation. Students grab a laptop or iPad when they are on the computer station, then get to work. I check these quickly at the end of the day or week for accountability.


STEP 7: ASSESSING
I do not like traditional spelling tests- they take FOREVER. We have way too much valuable time in the classroom for that. Instead, I simply assess on a very small amount of words and the actual pattern. It is easy to grade, and shows me if the child understands the pattern of the week. I cut up pieces of notebook paper into small strips and pass them out. The student puts their name on it, then writes down what the pattern is that we learned that week. I also have them spell two different words from the list. I am not looking at if the word is spelled correctly, but if they were correctly able to apply the pattern.




I hope you found this helpful! How do you do word study in your classroom? Are you interested in doing a paperless word study as well? Using Google Slides, you can easily create assignments for your students each week. Want to save time? I have a Word Study for Google Drive product available that you can easily assign to students as well!


How to make your word work in word study paperless

FREE Halloween multiplication color-by-number resources!

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You know what is fun? Coloring. You know what's not fun? Multiplication facts. However, combine these two things together and suddenly kids are excited to practice their times tables!

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There are so many ways to use these multiplication color-by-numbers. I like to use them as independent work during math, but they make fabulous morning work, quiet time activities, math centers, and sub work!

Are you subscribed to the newsletter? If so, check your inbox! Not currently on the mailing list? You can sign up here. You'll receive an immediate download of this Halloween multiplication color-by-number, AND a fact family resource!

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FREE Halloween multiplication facts color-by-number worksheets

How to make your book clubs paperless



Make your book clubs paperless using Google Drive & Google Classroom

I love using book clubs (also known as literature circles) in my classroom. However, the amount of papers needing to be organized and passed out continuously stressed me out. The packets were big and cumbersome, and it always resulted in more work for me as the teacher when a student lost their packet. My world of literature circles completely changed when  I realized how easy that literature circles could be if they were made digital using Google Classroom. It felt great to bring my literature circles into the 21st century and paperless using Google Drive & Classroom! You may notice in the photos that I use actual books instead of e-readers... which makes book club not completely paperless. That is up to you! My classroom is not 1:1, so e-readers are not an option for me! You can still have a paperless book club even without being 1:1!

Below, read eight easy steps to create a paperless book club! There are lots of different ways to do book clubs, I am just sharing what I like best in my room. Feel free to leave comments about how you run yours in the classroom, I am always looking for new ideas to incorporate into my teaching and LOVE hearing from you!



STEP 1: CREATE YOUR GROUPS
Book clubs consist of a group of students reading the same book, then discussing. In order to do this, you need to group your students! I generally like 4-5 kids per group.There are two different ways that I create groups for book clubs that I believe work best. You can....

GROUP BY READING LEVEL
I most often group my students by reading level. I always look for books that are just slightly above the students' reading level. We assess the DRA at my school, so I try to balance out the DRA level with which books that I think students can "handle." Grouping by reading level is nice because it is easier as a teacher to figure out the appropriate number of pages for students each week, since you have a better sense of how much they can read in a week without getting frustrated or stressed out. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of which books are too "hard" or too "easy" for students.

GROUP BY INTEREST
The other way to group is by interest. I have a pretty good idea what each student in my class is interested in (dogs, sports, nature, etc.) so I can mix reading ability this way. Students who are interested in and are eager to read a certain book are going to keep a growth mindset and conquer reading a book, even if the reading level is a bit more challenging or easier than usual. Remember, book clubs allow for self-differentiation. A too-easy book for a high student can still provide a plethora of ways for critical and higher-level thinking in terms of the assignment given. Sometimes a less-than-challenging book allows a less confident student to decipher and interpret it in more complex ways.




STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR BOOKS
Make your book clubs paperless using Google Drive & Google Classroom

Now, I KNOW that the title of this post is how to make your literature circle paperless. But you know what? I prefer reading a hands-on, physical book as opposed to a tablet. I notice that most of my students are the same. I'm personally not much of an e-reader, and many of my students do not have Kindles or iPads to read on at home. If your school is 1:1, this is definitely a great option! Otherwise, paper books work great! You can also give students an option. Sometimes students will purchase the electronic copy to have at home on their Kindle, or even will bring their device in from home to read on it. I do not push students to read either on a device or in a book- the choice is up to them!

Now, time to find which books that each group will read. Take a walk over to your school's reading room to find some books! Don't have a reading room, or are you not thrilled with the selection? You can prep for book club with a variety of methods.

  • Firstly, you could buy the books for cheap in the New/Used section of Amazon. 
  • Check out the $1 deals on Amazon
  • Purchase the books on Scholastic, and use all the points you get to receive more books for free. 
  • Look into Donor's Choose to fund your book club and set up a project to better your classroom.
  • Submit a purchase order for books from Amazon into your school finance person.
  • Ask your reading specialist or school librarian if they have any extra funds for books 

When choosing the books, I love to lean toward the classics. Many students are so enthralled with their Wimpy Kid series or Harry Potter (nothing against Harry Potter.... I am an HP fiend. #teamslytherin), that there are many classics and award-winners that they choose not to pick up. Many of the best children's books are passed up because some of the covers look "old" or outdated to students. I like to use book clubs as a way to get those sorts of books into the hands of my students. Students often discover new genres or series through the "forced" reading of book club.

I noted some of my favorite books for book clubs in third or fourth-grade that my students particularly enjoy as well. I also included Amazon links if you're unfamiliar with the book or want to check out the new/used prices!

FOR HGH READERS
(Glitter in Third is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising feeds by advertising and linking to Amazon.).


STEP 3: ASSIGN PAGES
Make your book clubs paperless using Google Drive & Google ClassroomI like to sit down ahead of time and map out all the pages that the kids will be reading. My first year I started teaching, I would assign pages on the spot. This resulted in a lot of unequal pages for various weeks. Instead, I now decide how long I want to do book clubs. I usually do four weeks. I take the total amount of pages in a book and divide by four. This number is roughly how many pages they will read each week. I say roughly because I like to end on the end of a chapter, so sometimes their reading will be a little longer or shorter to ensure that the last page they read each weeks finishes at the end of a chapter.

My Literature Circle for Google Drive & Classroom resources has a spot in the beginning where you can first choose the number of weeks for the kids to complete a book, then they have spots to write down all the pages. This is a great way for the kids to keep track of their reading and what their roles/responsibilities are! When I assign these, I have an iPad at the seat of each spot at my guided reading table. When I call a group over to my small table to meet, students quickly log in, then fill out the pages and their role for the week. This way, I know that all the students have it written down and can be held accountable if they did not do the assignment.


STEP 4: SET UP EXPECTATIONS
As with anything in the classroom, I believe that expectations are the most important step to ensure that everyone is the on the same page.

My students and I work together to create an anchor chart for "looks like" and "sounds like." We talk about what the discussion looks like (students focusing/getting to the small table quickly/bringing all supplies) as well as what the discussion sounds like (one voice at a time/speaking in a level 2 during discussion/level 0 while reading).

I always act as the student and demonstrate each role and what is expected using a read aloud book that we are working on. That way, all the kids are familiar with the story we are discussing and can focus on how I am completing each role. I show my thought process while thinking through it for the Summarizer role, then write a summary. For discussion leader, I demonstrate how to take the information from the chapter to write an open-ended question. For Word Wizard, I pull out a dictionary and show how I find some difficult words from the chapter to research. Demonstrating each role has a tremendous impact on students regarding what is expected of them, and really does stick with them.

Finally, I email home an example of what constitutes a 4, 3, 2, and 1. Of course this depends on your parental community, but at my school the parents are very involved. They want their student to do well, and sometimes don't realize if their students' work is not the best that they can do. Having an actual visual of what the work would look like to receive a 4 is extremely helpful. Sending home an actual example helps parents encourage their students at home and also serves as a way for parents to remember to remind their students to read (because let's face it, third-graders are very much still learning how to be responsible. Parents help make this learning possible!).



STEP 5: KIDS DO WORK ON ROLES
Make your book clubs paperless using Google Drive & Google Classroom
I use literacy stations in my classroom. During our book club cycles, one of our stations is Book Club work (the other stations are generally DEAR, reading comp, and small group time when I work on a specific reading strategy or skill with the students). Kids can take their book home and read for the required 20 minutes a night, and they are also more than welcome to do book club work at home. It is up to them! It is a great way to teach time management to kids. Often kids will want to spend most of the language arts block independently reading, so many of my kiddos will take their work home to make sure that this happens.

When a student is working on book club in the classroom, they simply grab a laptop or iPad when the rotate to the book club station. Then, they quickly log on to Google Classroom and get to work! We practice how to log on/off all year long, so students become pretty skilled at it quickly in the year! It can be frustrating in the beginning - keep practicing! It will eventually become like clockwork!

I use my Literature Circle for Google Drive resource to conduct my book clubs, available here. My roles generally consist of:

  • Discussion Leader: Come up with higher-level questions from the reading and lead meeting
  • Word Wizard: Use a dictionary to learn new words from reading
  • Character Comparer: Compare two characters of one's choice on a Venn diagram
  • Summarizer: Write a summary from the reading
  • Connection Conductor: Find connections to your own life from reading
  • Perspective Person: Write a letter from a specific character regarding what is happening in the chapter.
Feel free to use the roles above to create your own, or pick up the resource here to save you time and make it a no-prep activity!

Each week, I assign one role per student (if your groups are large, double up on a role). The student comes ready to share their role with the group the following week.



STEP 6: MEET
I meet weekly with my students. Book clubs can be personal- I want the kids to read the book and enjoy it, not feel rushed to finish. Some teachers I know have book club meets a few times a week. I personally feel like this is too much - I am an advocate for encouraging reading for pleasure at a young age. However, I also see how this would be a good way to track your students and ensure that they are keeping up with the work. So anything that works best in your classroom- you know your kiddos best!

My book club meetings are in place of any guided reading/small group work. What I love about book clubs is that it is mainly student directed. Whichever one of my students is Discussion Leader leads the discussion. I am there to monitor the discussion and make sure everyone is on task... but for the most part, I pretend that I'm simply a fly on the wall. I want to hear their ideas, not project my own ideas!

In the beginning of the year as they are first learning how book clubs are conducted, I serve more as a mediator and leader. It is a lot of fun to start loosening up on the reins and passing on the leadership role as they become more comfortable. I also tell the kids that they are graded on participation- which involves listening as much as it does talking. Often kids (and adults.... I am often 100% guilty of this) wait for others to finish talking but are not listening to what they are saying. Participation is listening to others and voicing one's own opinion in a respectful manner.

When you meet, I find it easiest to have an iPad at the seat of each spot on your guided reading table. When their group is called, students will find a spot at the table, log in to their Google Drive, pull up the literature circle role for the week, and the discussion will start!


STEP 7: GRADE
I use a rubric each week to grade my students. I have this on each of their Google Drive assignments, so all I have to do is drag a circle over each grade that they receive. I like to break up my grades into the sections of Listening, Discussion, Role fulfillment, and Participation. I do mine on a 1, 2, 3, 4 scale. Dragging a circle over their grade makes it super quick and easy- I actually great during the last few minutes of their discussion group! Students can also instantly see what their grade it, which offers instant feedback and reflection.


STEP 8: REPEAT!


You can create your own book clubs using Google Drive! Hopefully this post gave you ideas regarding what roles to do and how to set it up. I also offer my Literature Circles for Google Drive to save you time. It includes discussion expectations, an assignment page, discussion starters, an editable grading rubric, and six different roles for students.



How do you do book clubs in your classroom? Is this something you'll be doing this year? Have you tried doing it online before? Tell me about it below!



Make your book clubs paperless using Google Drive & Google Classroom


How to introduce collaboration to your elementary students

A team-building activity to introduce collaboration in the elementary classroom

Teamwork and collaboration! These are important parts of raising a 21st-century learner in the classroom, yet many students do not entirely understand what this it. I stress the importance of teamwork and collaboration throughout the year, but I take time in the beginning of the year to help students truly understand what it means. Throwing around the word "collaboration" can be confusing to students without breaking it down and explaining exactly what it is.

I don't know about you, but my third-graders always struggle with working as a team in the beginning of the year. My third-graders are easily frustrated and often have the approach of "my way or the highway." I often get many tears in the beginning of the year as students grapple with understanding how to be part of a bigger team and listening to one another. When a different student disagrees with their idea or opinion, my kiddos often will get sad, angry, or no longer want to contribute to the group. Like anything, teamwork and collaboration is a skill that needs to be practiced!

Below, I highlight an activity that helps explain teamwork to students by giving a large variety of examples in the real world, not only with humans but with inanimate objects, systems, and organizations. Below you will find the steps to this activity. All you need is two sets of Post-It notes per group. It is essentially no-prep and can easily fit into a 45-minute or hour-long window. I usually forgo a day of language arts to fit this it into my schedule, since this lesson deals with writing, critical thinking, and analyzing. I think this activity is perfect on the journey to being a great team member, especially in the beginning of the school year. Read and see if this is something that you would be interested in doing in your classroom!

Step 1: As a whole-group, discuss what collaboration means. It means when individuals respectfully work together for a goal while listening to others to make decisions. We talk about how we can see this in the classroom (examples: doing a group project, deciding how to organize the classroom library, solving a difficult math problem together as a group). We talk about how we need certain skills to do this, including listening and cooperating.

But... can only humans do collaboration? What else in the world works together? How can various components or pieces work together for a common goal? What else in life works together besides humans? Give the example of a grocery store. Who is working together there? The employees must work together to sell the items. The delivery man must work together with the store to deliver the items. The electricity company must work together to make sure there is lighting in the store. Think of all the possibilities!

I then tell students that we are going to be brainstorming various types of collaboration in the world in teams. We talk about how to be a good teammember, and make an anchor chart regarding what it looks and sounds like. For example, it sounds like one voice at a time. It sounds like respectful disagreeing and agreeing (we also write down sentence starters for this). It looks like students listening and making eye contact.

A team-building activity to introduce collaboration in the elementary classroomStep 2: Put students into teams and designate a recorder. I like to do 3-5 students per group, depending on how many students that you have in your classroom! The recorder is the only student that gets to write during the activity. We go over the expectations regarding working in a group (not shouting/talking over one another/etc.). I have my students pick the recorder, and if multiple students want to be the recorder, they play rock, paper, scissors to decide. If you think that your class may struggle with this, do a random number generator or simply designate the recorder yourself.


Step 3: Pass out Post-It notes in one specific color, and one Sharpie. I tell my students NO TOUCHING any of the supplies until I say to begin the activity. We also go over Post-It Note basics (for example, do not pull out all the Post-It Notes like an accordion). Only the recorder gets access to the Sharpie and can write.

A team-building activity to introduce collaboration in the elementary classroomStep 4: I say begin! Students have five minutes to write down as many things that work together for a common goal. For example, a computer (the hardware/software/etc. works together to create a machine).  A flower (the roots/stems/petals/inner workings all work together to create a healthy plant). The human body (all the various systems work together to create a healthy individual). They put down one item per Post-It. As you can imagine, they accumulate a lot of Post-It Notes very quickly! After five minutes, it is pencils down.

Step 5: Share! Call on individuals at each table to share a few of their Post-It Notes with the class. Remind the class that if someone writes down their idea that they hear, it is NOT copying. We are learning together and sharing new ideas collaboratively. We are trying to get a large assortment of Post-It Notes. After sharing for a few minutes, I give students an additional two minutes to write more down. Many times sharing jumpstarts their brains and they have a whole bunch more ideas to write down!

Step 6: Discuss how to group and categorize. Basically, students are looking for similarities in their Post-It Notes. Perhaps on their table they notice that on Post-It Notes they wrote down the "circulatory system," "digestive system", and "nervous system". This could go under a bigger umbrella category of the "human body"! Write down the "human body" on a different color Post-It, and line up the similar Post-Its underneath it. What about "tree", "flower", and "grass"? This could fall under the bigger umbrella category of "nature". Demonstrate this to students with your own Post-It Notes on the board or under a document camera.

Step 6: Pass out Post-It Notes in a different color and tell them to begin categorizing! Take 5-10 minutes for this, depending on your students' abilities. This can be a lot more difficult for students and works on vital critical-thinking skills. Students often have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees, this helps them work on making connections and seeing pieces as a whole.

Step 7: Share student findings and relate this to collaboration! Ask students to share on group, and all the pieces underneath it. Discuss how these things work together. For example, all parts of a circulatory system work together to make blood flow in the human body. However, the circulatory system works with the digestive system, nervous system, etc. to create a healthy body. Everything builds on one another to create something. How is this like individuals in our classroom? What sorts of things can we as individuals do to collaborate on a projector or in the classroom?


Do you have a favorite teamwork or collaboration activity for students? Share it below in the comments!

A team-building activity to introduce collaboration in the elementary classroom





How to start Quiet Time in the classroom

How to start Quiet Time in your classroom!


The school day can be fast-paced, chaotic, and, well, loud. Many students do not react well to chaos or feeling overwhelmed, and need a bit of downtime to get themselves refocused, recharged, and ready to learn. The perfect way to do this? Start Quiet Time once a day in your classroom

I take fifteen minutes a day to implement Quiet Time in my classroom- a built-in downtime for students that is 100% student-directed. I believe that students need choices to take responsibility and accountability of their learning, and Quiet Time gives them a set of choices. I started Quiet Time after taking a Responsive Classroom training (you can also purchase the book if the training is not available in your district or close to you! The link is my Amazon Affiliates link, FYI). If you haven't heard about Responsive Classroom, Responsive Classroom (or RC) is a teaching approach that focuses on engaging academics, effective management, positive community, and developmental awareness. Quiet Time supports these four aspects.

Before I began Quiet Time in my own third-grade classroom, my students would come in loud, disruptive, and chaotic after specials. It was hard to get my students settled down, and it was a stressful time for the students. I knew that I needed something that would create an expected calm before the rest of the busy afternoon full of learning.

Below, I will discuss what Quiet Time is and how you can start it in your classroom!


WHAT IS IT?
Quiet Time is a built-in downtime each day in the classroom. Many teachers already do this under various names - whether a "cool-down time" after a busy recess or "educational recess" after a difficult math lesson. Students get a choice during Quiet Time, it is a period during the day that is unstructured and allows for student choice.

Just like the name, Quiet Time is a completely silent time. This means no talking to one another, or even to the teacher! Quiet Time is NOT a time to interact for students to interact one another. Some students want to draw silently together, but I believe that this time needs to be purely for themselves. Even if students are not talking, I think it can be hard to get focused and redirected when you're somehow interacting and communicating (even if not speaking!) with someone else. To fully recharge, you need to focus on yourself.


WHAT DO THEY KIDS DO?
How to start Quiet Time in your classroom!I allow my students to read, write, draw, or relax during Quiet Time. But you know what? Students do not have to do ANYTHING! They can simply put their heads down if they would like to. This is a time that is all about them.

With so many standards to teach, kids rarely get to have choices that are artistic. With Quiet Time, most of my students choose to color or cut out shapes/headdresses with paper.


WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN DURING THE DAY?
It is 100% up to you! Some teachers do this after recess, lunch, or specials. Personally, I always do it after specials. The kids know to come in silently and do their Quiet Time activity of their choice.


HOW LONG?
Quiet Time can last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. I personally always do fifteen minutes in my classroom. YES, this is a lot of time during the day. But I think that the benefits outweigh the cost of time. My students are ready to learn after they get their "me time." I am saving valuable instruction time instead of having to constantly refocus students during a lesson.

If I notice that my students are taking a long time cleaning up after Quiet Time, I take away Quiet Time minutes for individuals the next day. You'd be surprised at how quickly they put their materials away when they are afraid of their personal time being decreased!


ISN'T THIS A WASTE OF TIME?
No! My students used to dawdle after recess/lunch/specials... now, they come in quickly to the classroom because they LOVE Quiet Time. They want to get to work on their dinosaur drawing, or find out what happens in the next chapter of their book. Students will not miss instructional time if they are taking way too long at the water fountain- they are missing their free choice time! It is funny how much quicker that simple tasks can suddenly take when students do not want to miss out on their personal time and activities.


WHAT IS THE TEACHER DOING?
This is Quiet Time- you do you! The students are recharging, but this is also a time for the teacher to recharge. Since Quiet Time is about each individual, this it a no-guilt time! I take this time to check my texts, peek at the news, pick up my desk, or get a few items together for an upcoming lesson.


HOW IS THIS IMPLEMENTED?
As I do with all procedures and routines in my classroom, we sit down as a group and create an anchor chart. What does Quiet Time look like? What does it sound like? We discuss how we must have a Level 0 voice, meaning no talking. They need to be calm and focused, stay at their seat, and share with others. We also practice it. In the beginning, we do Quiet Time for three minutes. Then four minutes. Then five minutes. We build our stamina to make sure that we are able to do Quiet Time correctly.

Even if you have already started school, it is not too late to put Quiet Time into your routine! This is something that can be introduced all year long when you think that your students are ready.


What do you think? Do you do Quiet Time in your classroom, or some form of it? Tell me all about it below in the comments!

How to start Quiet Time in your classroom!


Morning Meeting in the classroom


Do you have Morning Meetings in your classroom? Morning meetings are a way to further your positive classroom community, creating a classroom climate that feels safe, secure, and fun for students.

I learned about Morning Meeting through several Responsive Classroom courses that I took- I HIGHLY recommend signing up for these professional development courses if they are offered at your district. It completely changed my classroom management style, as well as turned my focus toward social and emotional learning, instead of solely on academic learning. Responsive Classroom is an approach to teaching that ultimately enables optimal student learning. Instead of simply focusing on student's behavior being "good" or "bad," it looks at every perspective of a child's time at school.


WHAT MATERIALS DO I NEED FOR MORNING MEETING?

Absolutely nothing! There are so many Internet resources for morning meetings (I linked a couple fo videos on the bottom of this post). Although you can always choose to incorporate materials into morning meeting, you don't need anything to do it. All you need is for students to either sit in a circle, or pull chairs over in a circle. Remember that EVERYONE in the room will participate in morning meeting- this includes any parent volunteers of IAs that are in the room!

If you're interested, check out Morning Meetings by Responsive Classroom in your professional library, or you can find it here on Amazon (this is an Amazon Affiliate link which provides a mean for Glitter in Third to earn a fee by linking to Amazon.com at no cost to you). 



HOW DOES IT WORK?

There are four components of morning meeting. Although morning meeting follows this specific structure, each of these components is adaptable and flexible. I change each section of my morning meeting every day to keep it interesting, yet the structure is the same so that students know what to expect. This helps students feel a sense of stability in the classroom. Morning meeting takes about 20-30 minutes each morning, but without a doubt it is the most important part of our day.
  • Greeting: Students literally greet one another by name. I emphasize the importance of making eye contact, not standing to close to others, looking interested, etc. It helps the social skills in your classroom. Not every student hears their name at home, this is incredibly powerful to ensure that every student in the classroom feels important and reminds them that they are part of the classroom community. 
  • Share: This is a time when students share events going on in their lives. There are so many ways for them to do this. Sharing allows students to practice public speaking, as well as how to communicate. Even the student not sharing is learning- they are learning how to be a good listener and conversationalist. The listeners learn how to ask empathetic questions. This is NOT show and tell. I also make sure the kids know that this is not a time to brag, and to be empathetic when sharing (for example, not talking about another student's party they are going to if other kids are not invited as wel).
  • Activity: An activity can be a game. An activity can be learning review. I NEVER use the word "game" for this, because students come to expect it. Everyone participates in the activity that helps create group communication. My students often play these cooperative games during recess and dismissal as well because they enjoy them so much!
  • Message: Every morning I write a message on the board. I read it to the students. Sometimes, we do a choral reading. In the message I mention some things that are exciting that are coming up so that the kids will think about what they can look forward to during the day. I also go over the schedule for the day. 



WHAT ARE THE RESULTS? 

Morning meetings create a positive classroom culture. My first two years of teaching, I did not do morning meetings. I see a complete difference of the attitude and respect that my students give one another. My students take the social and emotional learning that they learn during morning meeting, and utilize it in places like the lunchroom and playground. Morning meetings set the tone for the entire day. A peaceful, calm, and stable morning starts the day off right. I saw behaviors in my classroom decrease as morning meeting goes on throughout the year. It creates an incredible climate and culture in the classroom that fosters meaningful student relationships. Through morning meeting, students learn respect, trust, empathy, and kindness.

Morning meeting prepares kids for the rest of the day. Some students have bad mornings. Some students may have had a bad night. However, they will know that morning meeting will happen every morning and offer some level of familiarity to them. Every student deserves to feel valued, and this quick start to your day will help achieve this goal. It is a time where every student matters. Each child knows they are welcomed. Morning meeting is so much more than simply hearing a child's name, but a time that will increase a student's confidence and allow a child daily practice in appropriate and respectful communication.



WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

There are some fantastic videos on YouTube of teachers' classrooms where a morning meeting is performed. I embedded a few below!





HOW CAN IT BE SUCCESSFUL?
As with anything in teaching: model, model, model! Show what the procedure should look like. Discuss what it looks like. Make sure that students know that only one person is talking at a time, it is a time for respect and listening. Create the morning meeting rules together so that the students are responsible and held accountable for the rules.


MORNING MEETING IDEAS
You want to start morning meeting - that's awesome! It can feel overwhelming to start. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Greeting

  • Simple
    • All students stand up in a circle. A student walks across the circle, says "good morning *insert name here*," then sits in that student's spot. Next, the student who got greeted finds someone else to greet. This continues until everyone has been greeted.
  • Skip counting
    • Pick a number to skip count by. For example, four. A student will start. They count four students, then say good morning to that student. They take the student's spot, then the greeted student continues the skip count. The greeting is over when all students have been greeted.
  • One-minute greeting
    • Students have one minute to greet as many students as they can.
  • The Price Is Right greeting
    • Students form two lines facing one another. A student runs down the line getting high-fived. 
Share
  • Table share
    • Every day, I let a different table share. Kids do not have to share, it is up to them.A After they do a respectful share, they say, "Thank you for listening. I will now take one respectful question." Students can ask a question - NOT a comment. We emphasize that the share is about the sharer, not the person asking a question.
  • Maitre d' share
    • The teacher will yell out a number (like "party of 3!"). Students need to quickly create a group of three. Then the teacher will come up with a share question ("what is your favorite color?"). The group members share with one another, then the teacher calls out a another "Party of" number.
Activity
  • Four Corners
    • You probably remember this oldie-but-goodie from your elementary school days! A counter sits in the middle of the room and counts to ten. The other students in the classroom walk to a corner. The counter yells out a number ("corner 2!"). Everyone in that corner must sit down.
  • Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah
    • A student hides a small ball (or stuffed animal, whatever you have in your room) in a slightly concealed spot. The other students walk around the room looking for it. When they find it, they say, "zip-a-dee-doo-dah!" and walk to the opposite side of the room. The game is over when all students have found the item.



Do you use mornings in your classroom? How do you do it in your classroom? Leave me a comment below!