Friday, April 11, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop...Lowering Test Anxiety!

It's spring and for most of us that means we are about to move into what could be one of the most stressful times of the year. State testing season is upon us and more than anything, it is important to keep your classroom environment a positive one. Kiddos want to do there best but with some grades facing 3, maybe even 4 tests in a one month period, stress and anxiety levels can definitely hit an all time high!

This is my first year in a STAAR testing grade and it has been intense! I love teaching fourth grade and all that comes with it but won't deny the stress that comes with want my students to perform to their full potential. I know that if I am feeling it....they are too. 

Here are a few tips that I have picked up along the way this year that have helped lower testing anxiety: 

It All Begins with YOU! What you feel they feel. It comes out even when you are really trying not to let anyone see it. Take care of yourself and find ways to relax. Use the data that you have collected to drive your instruction and to make the most efficient use of your time. Plan your lesson carefully and with precision so that you can guide your students learning. BREATHE.....and remember...your kids need you to be their role model. They need you to show them how to take the anxious energy that comes with state testing and channel it to meet and challenge even our own wildest expectations. 

 Make test prep FUN! 
We are having an absolute blast practicing all the skills that they have learned through fun themed weeks, games and competition! Camp Write Along was our week for review and test prep for the 2 day writing STAAR and I could literally see the stress melt away as they worked through the fun camp activities of the week. The focus was no longer "the test" but more about celebrating all the amazing things that we have learned this year to become amazing writers. 

Next week, we will be having Beach Retreat which will be our time to lounge and relax as we comb over all the awesome skills that they have mastered in math and reading. I CAN'T WAIT...and neither can the kids!

Everyone LOVES a little competition!
Rather than wasting away time running of worksheets for the kiddos to do, turn that review from boring to fabulous by playing games to engage the students! I have purchased and ABSOLUTELY love the templates that I have bought for games such as Family Feud, Jeopardy, Are You Smarter Than Your Teacher and so many other quiz shows! Talk about student engagement and instant fun!

Brain Breaks 
We all need them....yes....even you! Taking a moment to stretch, move, sing or dance is almost like a reset for any lesson you may be teaching. When I see my students starting to look as though they are reaching the maximum potential....we stop. We do something to get us moving and change our train of thought and then we are ready to hit the ground running once again. Read your kids. They will let you know when they are ready and it will greatly improve stress and anxiety in those last few days of test prep!

Show a Lot of LOVE!
This is when our kids really need us to step it up and show them just how much we love them! Affirmations of a job well done make a huge difference. Celebrate the successes....both BIG and SMALL! Make it a team effort where your class is a network of friends that will encourage and support each other. Start a class tradition (like a lucky charm or a special cheer) to foster an environment of support for your students. Bring in your administrators, parents and staff to show your students that they are AMAZING and that everyone around them truly believes they will work to their fullest potential and show there very best work.


I wish you all the very best and hope that each of you have a wonderfully "stress free" testing season! 

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For more bright ideas from 150 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Camp Write Along Day 1

You could feel the excitement in the hall as all my little campers waited to get in the classroom today! It was our first day of Camp Write Along and we had an ABSOLUTE blast! Camp Write Along is a week long themed week used to practice essential skills for editing, revising and writing before the STAAR test next week.

The STAAR test is the standardized test in Texas and fourth graders take a test in reading, writing and math.

The writing exam consists of approximately 28 editing and revising multiple choice questions and 2 written compositions. The students are expected to write an expository and a personal narrative composition. The writing test is given in two days. On each day, the students take an editing/revising test and write one composition...all in a four hour time frame.

Today began with our class roll call and weather forecast for our day. We went over camp rules and expectations and set up camp. Each student brought a sleeping bag and a flashlight. They rolled out their sleeping bags and settled in for the morning's first activity....trash can trail mix!

The students donated snack items to our trail mix and we poured everything in to a large (double bagged) plastic bag. Asked the students to talk about what they thought would make great writing. With just a few snacks, we knew that our trail mix - just like our writing- needed a little more variety to be really good! As we added more snacks, we discussed elements that would really bring our writing to the next level, like the use of similes, metaphors, idioms, onomatopoeia and adjectives. When all the ingredients were added, I took the bag and shook all the yumminess into one fabulous trail mix for the kiddos to share through out the week.

Once snack was made, it was time to get our camp colors! Every student received a navy blue bandanna to represent our camp. There are 4 teachers in my grade so we all have a different color and the kiddos loved wearing them to show their camp pride. As the week goes on, the students will receive pins as rewards for improvement in different writing skills. These pins will be giving at our end of the day camp ceremony to celebrate all our learning for the day!

Whew! That's a ton in such a short time...and I haven't even mentioned the lessons...

Along with a gallery walk and activotes flipchart activities to practice editing and revising (I will tell you more about these as the week goes on), we did a great motivational lesson to Everyone Needs a Rock. It's a wonderful little book about the importance choosing just the right rock as a keepsake.

With all the testing, we wanted to provided the kiddos with something that would serve as a good luck charm and worry stone all in one. Once I read the story about how to select the perfect rock, the room was silent as each student chose their very special keepsake. It was really very sweet! The rock will have a special place in our classroom the day of the test as a quiet reminder of all the fun days that we will have during Camp Write Along.

I have so much more to share! 
There are so many fun filled days ahead and I can't wait to blog all about them!  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

1000 TpT Followers....ready to celebrate?

I can't believe that my little store has 1000 followers! 

Thank you so much for your means the world to me!

As a thank you, I am having a giveaway for a $25 gift card for Teachers Pay Teachers!
Enter to win and share with your friends! 

Camp Write Along

I teach fourth grade in Texas (my first year ever) and it's you know what that  fourth grade kiddos will be taking the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic ReadinessWriting Test in just a few days! They will be accountable for editing and revising and two written compositions. One will be an expository composition and the other will be narrative.We use the week before to have a ton of fun, while reviewing for the test, by creating 
Camp Write Along for our kiddos! 
        Our amazing parents decorated the hallway near our classrooms and did an AMAZING job! 
Don't you just love it?

It will be a week of exciting and fresh review activities, created just for the kids....and I can't wait! I spent time Friday transforming my room from a classroom to a camp site, complete with a tent and fire all ready to go! I will be sharing the week's events throughout the week so make sure to stop by and check it out!

I will be sharing tons of ideas as we go through the week so make sure to stop by and check it out!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Blogging Means to Me

I am writing this because of a huge realization that I had tonight. Spring Break has finally afforded me enough time to go through and do a little spring cleaning here at Curls and a Smile. I was labeling my posts (to make them easier to find) and realized something that made me really kinda sad. I realized just how many of the posts I had written were promoting a resource, sale or giveaway. Now, please don't get me wrong, these are all fabulous but...... it was the pure inspiration of reading what amazing teachers all over the state, country and world were doing with their kiddos that started the dream of this little blog that you are reading right now. 

It wasn't the giveaways....
although those are nice sometimes. 

It wasn't the promotions...
even though I really do like to see new resources.

I started blogging with Curls and a Smile to share and collaborate with teachers and to develop my craft with others that also spent their free time reflecting on great teaching strategies that they had tried in their classrooms. I miss the great tips (no matter how little they were) and the neat new ways to teach the same skills that we are all asked to teach our students. I need to get back to that. Back to what makes all of this worthwhile and honestly, worth reading. 

So, I am going to change that and bring the JOY and HAPPINESS back into my blogging. I truly hope to get back to what I love most about this amazing community of teachers that we have- the loving spirit of sharing with each other to benefit all of our students. 

I hope you will stick with me as I breath new life into my sweet little blog that I just love and rededicate myself to what really brings us all together- great ideas and best practices!

A HUGE Celebration with FlapJack Educational Resources

I am so very excited to be able to celebrate a HUGE milestone for a new bloggy friend of mine! FlapJack Educational Resources has reached 10,000 Pinterest followers! Want to check out her boards? Simply click on the picture below and enjoy!

There are some amazing resources to win and all you have to do is join the fun with the rafflecopters below! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Idea Blog Hop- How to Manage Student Work in the Older Grades

Welcome to the Bright Idea Blog Hop! 

I am so happy to have you here! My name is Lynda. I have taught for 14 years, most of which were spent in first and second grade. The little ones are adorable and the amount of growth that occurs in just one school year is amazing. This year is my first year to teach 4th grade and am having a blast! 

With the change in grades, I have had to tweak some of my classroom procedures. One of my many learning curves has been how to collect and maintain student work. This is definitely different for me because I was use to collecting things as a class. My students are in control of their work, managing their time and turning in the assignments in an efficient way and it was my job to find what worked best for all of us. 

So here are a few tips that I can suggest that worked beautifully with my older students:

These drawers are my friend. I use two of them to collect papers from my kiddos. Now this doesn't look like much but after a little make over, these little beauties have saved me hours of work!

And the big reveal.....

TA DAH! It's magic! (Well, a little teacher magic that is!)

My students know to turn in complete assignments to these drawers according to subject. In each of  the drawer, the kids find the roster with their name which I use to help keep track of all the assignments as they are turned in to me.

I ask that they highlight two things: 
1) Their name on their paper to make sure that they put their name on their paper 
2) Highlight their name on my roster so as to make sure I SEE that they have turned in their paper.

On the roster, there is a number that represents each kiddo. I have those numbers on magnets and put their number on the board under "Missing Assignments". This also works out well with make up work when students  are absent (because they aren't there to highlight their name when the assignments are turned in.)

When the students see that their number is on the board, they go to the binder that holds their sign in sheets, and check to see which assignment is missing. I always keep extra copies of the assignments in a basket (just in case they have lost it.) Once they have completed it, they turn it into the "Missing" drawer and all is right with the world!

It has been a blast to be able to share this with you! I will be posting the labels soon so make sure to come by and snatch those up as well! I can't wait for the next blog hop.....I already have some BIG BRIGHT IDEAS waiting for you!

Next up on the blog hop is Mandy of A Special Kind of Class has a great post for 
you all about how to organize for guided reading! Just click on the button below to check it out!