Featured Slider

Why Teachers Shouldn't Be Allowed to Wear Jeans


One of the biggest dress code debates that I've seen/heard over the years has been all about jeans and whether or not teachers should be allowed to wear them. I've worked for districts and schools where jeans are both encouraged and deeply forbidden. I understand both sides of the debate...on one hand schools want their staffs to dress "professionally" (and somehow jeans can't be styled professionally?) and to only enjoy them on days like casual Fridays (when typically paired with school-specific flare) or field trips. On the other hand there's an encouragement from administrators as long as they're tasteful and don't distract or inhibit one from from doing their job.

With this in mind, I present to you the top reasons why teachers shouldn't be allowed to wear jeans to work...

Teachers are just happier in jeans.

I have yet to meet a teacher that isn't happy to wear jeans to work. Wearing jeans allows us flexibility in our style as well as a mysterious ability to get ready in a snap in the mornings.

Teachers are more comfortable in jeans.

Teachers are constantly on their feet, but there's a large part of the day where we're on the carpet, kneeling down, picking things up, etc. Doing those things can be such a challenge when wearing dresses or skirts. Especially in the younger grades, teachers are often on the ground with their students and wearing jeans allows us to maneuver quickly without worrying on being exposed or

Teachers are more prepared in jeans.

In my last teaching position I had not only 20 four/five year olds to look after, but my school was full inclusion with students who have special needs. With that being said, I needed to be prepared to attend to those students of mine who had tendencies to elope (escape the classroom), become triggered, escalate in their behaviors, or otherwise become a safety risk to themselves or their peers. Wearing jeans allowed me to be ready every day to move and be flexible in case I had to de-escalate a situation in my classroom.

Teachers relate better to their students in jeans.

By wearing jeans, students see their teachers differently than those who wear more "work wear" style clothes. As we aim to create an inclusive classroom culture, it's important to know that how we dress impacts our student's impressions of us as their teachers. Yes, this can be debated both ways, but I believe I establish stronger relationships at the beginning of school when I can style my jeans and appear less authoritative.

Jeans can be styled professionally...

Since jeans are becoming ever so popular in work settings these days, it is possible (thanks to Pinterest) to style a jeans look and still maintain professionalism. It's all about administrators being firm and concise about the style of denim teachers can wear to work. The more specific in what is either allowed or not allowed helps cut out misunderstandings or awkward conversations.

And to be fair, most teachers dress conservatively anyways... #cardigans.


I have to know, do you agree with allowing jeans
or do you find them unprofessional?

When Change Is a Good Thing

How are you planning to implement change this upcoming school year? Join in the conversation! | littlefoxteaching.blogspot.com

This post is Week 6 of 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

I am excited to jump in and join my fellow educators in an 8 week blog challenge hosted by Hot Lunch Tray! I enjoy blogging challenges, especially summer ones, because it's all about refreshing and evolving our teaching mindsets as we all prepare for the school year ahead. The Hot Lunch Tray blog invites educators to challenge themselves to reflect on various aspects of teaching and this week's prompt is:

How are you planning to implement change this upcoming school year?

This is a major theme in my professional life at the moment. So much so I felt it necessary to share about all that on a deeper level on my personal/lifestyle blog (you can read that, here). Change is such a necessary aspect to our own growth and evolution as people, partners, parents, friends, and in our careers. Especially as a teacher, where education is always in such a fluid motion, it's vital that we learn to change and be open-minded about new approaches to our instruction.

I remember struggling at points in my career because of the limits that were placed - both on a grade level and school-wide scale. It's so hard to be innovative or 'try new things' when, unfortunately, there are administrators or school boards out there that often allow politics or agendas to hinder the educators looking to make that difference for their students.

Thankfully, it's been through those challenging years or unpredictable life moments where I've found the most growth and change within myself. I personally believe that we are faced with circumstances that aim to move and shake us with the intention of building up something within ourselves we may not truly understand in the moment. But, it's when we take those leaps of faith, as they say, and trust in the process, we abound in so much more than we originally thought.

This school year is all about new beginnings...

In June I wrapped up my temporary teaching position with my previous district and this upcoming school year I've accepted a position that will move and shake the very ground I've been comfortably standing on my entire teaching career.

I will be teaching kindergarten at a dual-language French-American school here in San Diego where I will be instructing as a part of a larger collaboration and teaching effort. At this school, students are taught in both English and French (I will be responsible for the English part; although I am currently learning French) and therefore will be a co-teacher of sorts. I won't have a classroom myself, but will rather be responsible for teaching mainly Language Arts in English for all three kinder classes. What's more is that Grey is able to attend their preschool! I've always dreamt of Greyson attending wherever I taught and I'm thankful for this opportunity to do just that!

In addition to, in general, a whole new change in my career I plan to really adapt to my school's approach to instruction. They teach using both American and French curriculums with a little Common Core spread in there (since they're required to by CA). So, not only will I be responsible for teaching multiple classes but my lessons will be inclusive of two styles of instruction. I'm excited to learn alongside my colleagues and develop a whole new perspective in my teaching.

So, needless to say, next year will be a wonderful, new, and challenging year for me. This opportunity is unlike anything I've ever done before and I know it will push me to be that innovative and adaptable teacher I know I am. I have no idea what's in store...but, that's almost the fun part about it!

That's a wrap for this week, but be sure to join in on the conversation with the Hot Lunch Tray and all of the other teacher bloggers for these next 8 weeks of summer reflection!

Solving Strategies with Eureka Math | Second Grade



 This summer I've committed myself to finally working on the remaining modules for my Eureka Math modules. Life has certainly gotten in the way of my ability to attend to them and I'm thankful I have my summer to dedicate the time. That being said, thank you to everyone who has been so excited and supportive of these resources! Every time I receive feedback over at the shop or even questions about when the next modules will be available I am that much more appreciative.

shop
These resources were just an idea a couple of years ago after seeing Eureka Math being used at my school. It was, at that time, a new curriculum at our school and most teachers were unsure of how to incorporate it into their lessons. Much like anything new, it takes at least a school year to get it under your belt and that's exactly what happened.

But, not matter how much my colleagues and I tried to adapt the lessons that came in each module we found that the kids were being forced into a ridiculous amount of practice problems and sprints. I quickly noticed they weren't being engaged when taught straight from the teacher's manual. So, like any other time I decided to adapt the lessons provided from Eureka Math and created my own resource.

I love using interactive notebooks and that's the design inspiration behind these products. But if notebooks aren't your thing, feel free to just print them off like normal and use as individual handouts. Interactive notebooks are great for kiddos in second grade because it's hands on with the cutting/pasting aspect as well as the work itself has been condensed and more focused. Let's take a peek at module 5 for second grade!

 Application Problems & Problem Sets

The application and concept development problems are the meat of these resources. There's so much that Eureka Math provides in the way of support for teachers in each lesson/unit. I wanted to take these application practice problems and give students a space to work out their strategies and share with their peers. At the bottom, I leave space for the concept development, which is the main lesson that typically introduces a new skill or extends the skill students have been working on in previous lessons.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Eureka-Math-Module-5-Unit-SECOND-GRADE-4678203?aref=r3t8dxi8
Problem set pages are what students complete independently as practice of the skill discussed and done together as a whole class. This is where I've really condensed the work that my students complete after each concept development lesson. Eureka Math typically has two pages worth of problems and that's simply waaaay too much.

I've intended these resources to be used not so much as the lesson itself, but rather a means to segue into additional skill practice like math centers or groups. I've seen such a difference in the attention span and attentiveness my students have had when cutting out the busy work!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Eureka-Math-Module-5-Unit-SECOND-GRADE-4678203?aref=r3t8dxi8
Each set of pages has space for student work, which is a blank space intended for students to work alongside their teacher or peers to solve and practice the strategy being taught. On other lessons I've included visuals or aides that align with the lesson. This helps both the teacher and student because they can easily follow along with your direction and see a visual representation of the steps to solve.

Sprints and Fluency Practice

Periodically in lessons spread throughout the module you will find sprints and fluency practice pages. These are exactly what they sound like - just problems that students complete in a timed environment to check in on their ability to solve problems using the mental math strategies outlined and taught in the various lessons. These sprints area aligned with the answer keys provided in the teaching manual, which means simple grading for you!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Eureka-Math-Module-5-Unit-SECOND-GRADE-4678203?aref=r3t8dxi8
 I'm excited to continue working on the other modules to complete this resource - and make it a BUNDLE so you can save and receive each module all in one download. Again, thank you all for your support and acceptance of these resources!! To catch up or complete your lessons, be sure to check out these other modules available in the shop!

Eureka Math is becoming one of the biggest trends in elementary mathematics and don't be surprised if this curriculum is heading into your school next year!  Although Eureka Math has a lot of great strategies within its format, the worksheets are lengthy, cumbersome, and take up so much time! Not anymore!


Second Grade

First Grade

Creating an Optimal Learning Space


This post is Week 4 of 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

The Hot Lunch Tray blog invites educators to challenge themselves this summer to reflect on various aspects of teaching and this week's prompt is:

What are optimal conditions in which to learn, for you and for students?

When it comes to learning environments I've become more conscientious over the years. Each class requires different things, but there are a number of ways I've tried to incorporate a variety of conditions both for the classroom in terms of layout but also in setting expectations for behavior. These learning environments are more than just for the students and I feel as though teachers often forget this fact. Creating such an environment needs to combine conditions that both adults and children can learn and connect every day.

For me, I learn best:
  • in the classroom. I've taken a few online classes and although I can appreciate the convenience of not having to commute to a campus or have to interact in-person to complete assignments, I prefer being physically in another space to learn. At home there are too many distractions like snacks and Real Housewives.
  • in a clean space. I always have to clean a little before sitting down to do anything. If my space isn't organized or clean of clutter then I can't focus.
  • in quiet spaces. This is especially true if I have to read or think...or practically do anything.
  • in a space with warm lighting. I cannot stand overhead florescent lighting! It's the worst and should be banned from all buildings everywhere - especially schools.

Student Conditions

Like I've mentioned before, each set of classes I receive each year has different needs - especially if changing grade levels. Some of the basic conditions I try to create in my classroom are:

Physical Space
  • flexible seating options
  • easy flow of traffic throughout my room
  • the use of lamps and other soft lighting
  • calming music during work times or centers, but not too loud (this is my favorite website!)

Behavior
  • establishing classroom rules with students (see my favorite resource to do so here)
  • a lot of collaboration or peer sharing activities
  • inquiry-based learning activities where students have to problem solve or work together to find the answer

 




my pre-k class working on creating bridges to support various amounts of bears using only the given materials.
Learning spaces are going to vary from teacher to teacher and I am so excited to see who else is getting in on this discussion! I learn so much from my teacher friends and bloggers, so if you're interested be sure to follow along these next few weeks with these #8weeksofsummer prompts!

https://www.hotlunchtray.com/week-4-8weeksofsummer-blog-prompt/

Catch up on this series...

Week 3




How do you create optimal learning spaces in your classroom each year? Also, how do you learn best? Does this influence the conditions you try to provide for your students? 

Why Parent Communication Needs to Be Your Focus This Year

Parent communication is key to a successful year! See how you can begin to work smarter, not harder this year! | www.littlefoxteaching.blogspot.com

Ever since I became a mom to Grey my perspective as a teacher has been flipped on its head. I found myself operating as both a parent and a teacher, which has helped me understand and relate to my student families that much more. Over the years I've adopted the mentality that I can never communicate too much information to my parents because at the end of the day, they're eager to understand what their child is learning and how to best support them (and you!) at home.

With that being said, it can almost feel too overwhelming to clue parents in on a daily basis because it's an effort already on the top of a very large to-do list. Parents think it's just as easy as sending a quick email or having a short chat at the end of the day about Billy's behavior or Sandra's test results. But in actuality a teacher's brain is already planning the next day's to-dos like making those copies, grading classwork, or simply just using the bathroom.

Each year I always set a little goal for myself that allows me to work smarter, not harder. Parent communication is always a necessary part of our jobs as teachers and it's important to do so in a way that doesn't add one more item to the ever growing list. That's why I incorporate a variety of ways I can easily communicate with my student's and their parents.

Weekly Emails

Each week I send out a "looking ahead" email to my parents. This is just a friendly reminder of important things coming up, reminders, and heads up about school-wide or classroom events. This information is also found in my newsletters that are hard copies because it's not always guaranteed that all parents have email or access to the internet at home.

Monthly Newsletter

Some schools require weekly newsletters, but I personally love the monthly newsletter where I can outline exactly what I planned to teach. This is a great tool to encourage parents to hold onto or stick on the fridge so they can glance over it throughout the month. If they have a question about what their child is learning, I can easily tell them to reference it. Having a copy made available electronically is also a great idea that way you don't have to worry about making the time to send additional copies home.

Class Dojo

Just last year did I dive head first into using Class Dojo for my pre-k class! I loved how it incentivized their behavior, but was also a quick way to communicate with parents in real time about their child throughout the day. I created specific behaviors to which my kids could gain or lose a point and even used 'notes' to write in something specific when necessary. That way parents were made aware and it was also a great way to keep data on my kiddos that needed extra supports. During IEP or other meetings I could easily reference their behavior and speak to it with the parents and administration.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Behavior-Management-Clip-Slip-1382325?aref=6imwzmajClip Slips 

If you're using a variation of the Clip Chart I highly recommend using a Clip Slip, a resource I created to communicate behaviors with parents. I used it in my second grade class and it worked really well. You can read more about how I used it here and check it out over at the shop here.



Parent Conferences

Every so often it's important to set time aside both at the beginning and end of the year to meet with parents and discuss their child's progress. This is for both academic and behavioral purposes. I have always found that developing relationships early on in the school year leads to better communication and an ability to discuss the important, and sometimes difficult, things.
shop

I love using this resource I'd developed a few years ago to get organized for meeting with parents. Feel free to pick it up for yourself or read how I use them here.

Phone Calls

We all know it can be difficult or inconvenient to make phone calls to parents, especially during the school day. But being a mom myself and gaining that new perspective, I have found it to influence how I connect and relate with my student's families. I know I appreciate phone calls from my son's school when he gets hurt versus finding out when I pick him up or find bite marks at bath time. My goal as a teacher is to keep that in mind with my own classes and their families. If a student gets hurt, seems off emotionally, or something happened that warrants an immediate phone call, I try to speak with them directly when possible.

What else is that a teacher should always begin with, "______ is fine, but I just wanted to let you know ________." By stating up front that their child is fine will put them at ease as to what you're about to share with them. Parents rarely receive phone calls from the school anymore and there's always a slight panic when it happens. So, just as a friendly mom-to-teacher recommendation...let them know up front their child is okay but that you need to speak with them about something that happened at school.

Parent communication is key to a successful year! See how you can begin to work smarter, not harder this year! | www.littlefoxteaching.blogspot.com

How do you like to communicate with your parents? 
What has been tried and true for you?

Simple Routines That Will Save Your Mornings


Whether it's the first day of school or just any 'ole day of the week, it's so important to have the right routines in place so that chaos is minimized and students are actually engaging with their learning. Morning routines are a great way to maximize that half hour or so - allowing you to get those last minute things prepared.

Today I thought it would be great to talk about some helpful morning routines and how easily you can incorporate a few of them into your daily schedule.

1. Engaging morning message

When I was completing my student teaching for my Master's program I was introduced to the Responsive Classroom method. I really enjoyed how inclusive it was and how it stressed the importance of classroom community all throughout the day. When I graduated and received my very first classroom I was eager to begin infusing the Responsive Classroom method into my own teaching - especially in the mornings.

By having a morning greeting, and it being the first things kids do when entering the classroom, it gives them a start off point to their day. From there they can ready their materials at their desk and begin their morning work. | slidinginto2ndgrade.blogspot.com
photo: Learning with Mrs. Langley
These greeting notes are great for any grade, but can also be easily adapted to incorporate material kids are currently learning. For example, I love writing about an open ended topic that requires students to respond. Either leave room on the easel for students to write or use post-its to give their response. That way when you transition to the meeting area you can open by reading the letter and analyzing student responses.

By having a morning greeting, and it being the first things kids do when entering the classroom, it gives them a start off point to their day. From there they can ready their materials at their desk and begin their morning work. You can also incorporate the morning message as a whole group circle time activity first thing in the morning after their morning work. Either way, it gets kids interacting and sharing their ideas in a variety of ways.

2. Morning work and brain boosters

Try having hands-on activities that require cutting and pasting, coloring, use of play dough, or a variety of word work activities that keep those tactile learners engaged! | slidinginto2ndgrade.blogspot.com
photo: Mrs. Beattie's Classroom
Every morning my kiddos have the opportunity to practice and review key concepts taught earlier in the week then catch up on any unfinished work. Morning work, or brain boosters, routines and expectations are laid out right from the beginning of the year so students know what to work on and choices they can make when they finish. 

I always make sure that the necessary materials are available as to cut down on wasted time and the risk of students getting off task. The work I give my kids follows a similar framework all year so that they know how to complete an activity without me having to give directions a million times.

And don't think morning work always has to be worksheets - especially in the primary grades!

  • Other ideas I love for morning work are a Rise and Shine binder where each day students work on a set of concepts in language arts, math, or phonics.
  • Try having hands-on activities that require cutting and pasting, coloring, use of play dough, or a variety of word work activities that keep those tactile learners engaged!
  • Students can have a choice in their morning work with a 'menu' of activities they can complete.
  • Or even have morning work stations like this awesome kinder teacher!

3. Morning Meeting

One aspect of the Responsive Classroom method that I've always included in my daily schedule has been morning meetings. I love the chance to meet with my kiddos to go over the objectives for the day, touch base with them about the goings-on in their lives, and do an activity together like calendar math or another skill practice.

Morning meeting can look and feel a number of ways, which is why it's so great to do! Here are a few ideas that caught my eye and that I want to somehow incorporate this upcoming year.

Responsive Classroom Meeting Routine
My EAK class last year participating in morning greeting.
Greeting: Each morning students sit in a circle and greet each other in different ways. They practice communication skills like eye contact and simply, the art of greeting people - which can be intimidating for some. I love mixing it up between high fives, handshakes, or something the kids invent and saying hello or good morning in a different language.

Sharing: This is possibly the most favored part of morning meeting as it's a time for students to share what's going on with them. It's also a time for other kiddos to ask questions or give compliments or comments about what they each shared.
  • Bear Share: I love Reagan's idea of using bear counting manipulatives to help guide her students and keep them on track during their share. Read all about it here!
  • 'Class Pet' or Flat Stanley: Use either of these ideas to allow students a time to share their adventures with the class pet (stuffed animal) or Flat Stanley.
  • Discovery Journals: I loved using this research/writing activity for years now! It allows those kiddos who want a little more to practice early researching skills and practice writing an 'All About' piece on whatever topic they choose! See how it works here!
Group Activity: This is a quick time where students engage with each other socially while fostering the class community.

Here is where the message from the morning routine comes back into play. It's a message written by you, the teacher, and focuses their attention on what they'll be learning and doing that day. I love including questions or review and using this time to go over student responses and how it ties into what they'll be learning. | slidinginto2ndgrade.blogspot.com
photo: Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits
Morning Message: Here is where the message from the morning routine comes back into play. It's a message written by you, the teacher, and focuses their attention on what they'll be learning and doing that day. I love including questions or review and using this time to go over student responses and how it ties into what they'll be learning.

  • Use themed prompts in terms of the days of the week (i.e. 'Thoughtful Thursday', 'Monday Make It', etc.)
  • Incorporate your board for your messages instead of a paper or dry-erase easel!
So, no matter how you start your day make sure it engages your kiddos, boosts their brains for the day, and invites them into a welcoming and open community within the classroom! Ever since I began using Responsive Classroom foundations, I've seen a direct impact on positive interactions between students, orderly and efficient time spent in the AM, budding communication skills, and an overall sense of belonging.

Have you used Responsive Classroom before? What are your favorite or least favorite aspects?

For more information about the Responsive Classroom morning meeting approach, be sure to check out their many books and online resources! I would also love to help answer any questions you may have, so feel free to pop on over to the comments and let's talk!

In conclusion, don't waste your precious moments in the morning! From the time your kids walk through the door be sure you have engaging and interesting activities available for them while you're busy getting those last minute things done. And don't forget those early finishers, either! By sequencing the morning, I've found that my kids stay on task and always have something they can be working on - and the best part is, they want to!

See how these simple morning routines helped me get organized and my students engaged first thing in the morning! | littlefoxteaching.blotspot.com

But, I want to know from all of you veteran teachers! What are your favorite activities you use in the mornings and how do you keep your kids engaged for the whole period?

June Reflections


Over on my lifestyle blog I've started a monthly reflection post where I answer three simple questions:

what goals did I work towards, where did I spend my energy, and how did I refill the well.  

I was inspired by Angela over on her blog, Clutter Box, and thought it was a thoughtful and meaningful way to continuously reflect on my teaching goals and focus on ways to actively work towards them.

What did you work towards this month?

  • June was a month that came fast and furiously. Every ounce of my being was being poured into my students and preparing the last minute activities and gifts that would be going home on the last day of school.
  • I spent my initial first days of summer working on the transition of this blog. I am so excited to finally have it included in my vision for all of my Little Fox projects and can't wait to share it with family, friends, and all of you!
  • My lettering shop is also a continuous goal I actively work towards each month. For now, it's just for fun and by no means a full-time job. I love having a little side-hustle that keeps me busy and allows me to express myself through my designs and lettering.

Where did you spend most of your energy?

  • Cleaning and moving my things from my classroom was a major area where I spent most of my energy- especially in those last two weeks of school!
  • Enhancing my resume and gearing up for interviews has also gone hand in hand with my preparations to finish the school year. I held a temporary contract with my district and after the school year wrapped I'm no longer employed - eek! No worries, though. I am confident a teaching position will open up this summer...
  • I've begun to work on the remaining modules from my ever popular Eureka Math resources for second grade! I have the first four modules currently available and a goal is to finish the final 4 modules this summer.

What's helped you refill the well?

  • This has been one stressful school year for me and these last few months I've noticed a spike in my stress levels which affected my weight and overall mental health. With that being said I look forward to these next couple of months to focus on my wellness in mind, body, and soul.
    • Get back to my cycling classes again! It's been 3 months since my last ride and it's been a wonderful (yet painful) thing to get back into it...even if my body hates me for a moment.
    • Being intentional about reading at least one summer-must-read book! Lord knows the last time I really sat down to read anything! I'm looking forward to heading to the bookstore and picking up a new book to get sucked into.

Each month I will be reflecting on my goals and the progress I’m making (or not) and I’d love for you to follow along. Feel free to link up your monthly reflections in the comments section. 
I’d love to check your site out and connect!