Posts filed under ‘Teacher Tips’

ELL Ayuda (Help!)

by: Jennifer Perez

I don’t know about you all, but each year, I have at least 3 students each year who enter my classroom not speaking any English whatsoever. At our school, the main second language is Spanish.  Luckily for me, I consider myself to be pretty fluent in Spanish so communicating with my spanish speaking students and their parents isn’t a challenge.   (Thank goodness for my grandparents being persistent and teaching me Spanish when I was younger!)  I try my best to have frequent conversations with my ELL (English Language Learner) students, in Spanish, to see how they are feeling about things: the classroom, their learning, what they are doing at home to help their learning come along and anything else they need to talk about.  I have found that these conversations help my students stay ‘connected’ with me and their peers.

I try very hard to put myself in their shoes: new country, new school, ALL new people, new customs, traditions, new language, new procedures, etc….

To sum it up-EVERYTHING is new and they are expected to perform just as the other students do!  I sat down one day and brainstormed a list of things/ways I can help my ELL students transition into their new community and also become successful learners as well.

Here is the list I have come up with thus far:

1.  Daily mini-meetings to see how the students are progressing and answer questions

2. I read daily with my ELL students with books that are on their level.  This helps them to build confidence-the confidence they need to continue trying new things even if in another language!

3. Personal Vocabulary Files ~ I have my students use a personal index file and they add at least 5 words per week to their file.  I have them draw the picture  and write the word in English AND their native language.  My students then use these words in their reading, writing and Literacy Centers.

4. I keep constant communication with parents via email, telephone and notes in the student planners.  I notify parents of upcoming projects, assignments and opportunities to volunteer in the classroom.

5. I strategically seat my ELL students with peers that speak English and their native language.  This helps a lot with building confidence, friendships and the idea of the ‘gradual’ release model.

This is a list that I am sure will need to be revised even as the school year continues to unfold.  The important things to keep in mind is that our ELL students are working at a disadvantage as soon as they step foot into our classroom.  What is that disadvantage?  Not speaking English in a classroom where the primary instruction is given IN English and tested IN English.  As professional teachers, it is our responsibility to  help each of our students reach their maximum potential ….. even if they don’t speak English!

 

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 10/11/10

 

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October 11, 2010 at 8:56 PM Leave a comment

Parent/Teacher Conferences

by: Jennifer Perez

In Hillsborough County, Florida -the children have now been in school for four weeks.  My…how the time does fly!  Knowing this, do you think it’s a little too soon for me to begin having Parent/Teacher conferences? (Really, tell me what you think!)  I actually held my first Parent/Teacher conference this week and…it went well!  I have never been the teacher to wait for Conference Night to roll around before conferencing with my parents.  I have been with my kiddos for four weeks, have had an opportunity to get to know them and can already see some of their strengths and weaknesses.  It is my job to work with my student’s parents, as a team, to make sure our kiddos continue to work toward expected benchmarks.  I don’t need to wait another four weeks to tell my parents how they can help their child at home….I start NOW!

Where do I start?

Most schools should have an approved Conference Request form.  I suggest :

  1. Sending this form out at least one week prior to the scheduled Conference date.  This way, the parent/guardian has some time to plan in advance to attend the Conference.
  2. Allowing your self a minimum of 30 minutes for each Conference.  I learned this the hard way my 1st year.  Not knowing any better, I scheduled a few Conferences after school one day, assuming that they would only take 15 minutes a piece.  (Boy, was I wrong!)  What I failed to account for was the fact the parents would have something they wanted to discuss and/or ask.  How silly of me to think I would be the only one talking for 15 minutes.  (Growing pains!  Please learn from my mistake.)

What to discuss at the Conference?!

Knowing what to discuss at a Parent/Teacher Conference was a learning experience for me as well.  After about a dozen conferences my 1st year of teaching, what I learned has helped me tremendously in my career.

Learned Lesson:  Each Conference will be different because EACH child is different!

A few topics to consider discussing are:

  1. Content area progression such as – Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing, etc…
  2. Upcoming projects
  3. Tutoring availability
  4. Any upcoming classroom tests as well as Standardized Tests
  5. Classroom Behavior
  6. Extra Credit opportunities

And my favorite….

7.Discuss some positives about each child.

Trust me on this…parents really do appreciate it when they hear great things about their child.  Don’t let the conference be a ‘you need to do this or you need to do that’ session.  After all, we are talking about children and they do need their praise to build their self-confidence! I like to start my conferences with something like, “J.J. is really an eager learner and is always ready for a challenge.” Or J.J. has such a positive attitude which has a direct effect on his learning!”

And now that I have Conferenced…..?

I highly recommend keeping some sort of record of what was discussed during the conference.  You never know when you made need those notes to turn back to.  I would also recommend at least one more Conference at some point during the school year to follow up on any other issues that need to be addressed.  If you can Conference at once per 9 weeks, that would be ideal!!

Happy Conferencing!

© Jennifer Perez 9/16/10

September 17, 2010 at 6:36 PM 2 comments

Substitute Plans- A Sample

by: Jennifer Perez

Here is a sample of Substitute Lesson plans that I used once a few years ago.  I always try to leave detailed plans so that my student’s learning is not affected if I am away!

Good Morning Mr. Carbone,

Thank You for taking care of my students for the day. At some point today, Mrs. Severt will be stopping by to create some books with the class.  I have left the copies underneath all of your goodies!!

7:30-8:15am~Morning Work~ The students will be arriving at this time.  Their morning work is to complete the Multiplication Practice Worksheet. Please place a practice sheet on their desk so that when they arrive they can get straight to work.

8:15am~ Please send attendance at this time with Alexis and Esmeralda.  If anyone is absent, please mark your initials, in black pen only, on today’s date.  You do not need to worry about the calendar math because I have already done it for the day.  If the students ask, just tell them that Mrs. Perez has taken care of it for them today!

8:15-9:10am~Math # 1

The students will need their Anchors Math books for today’s lesson.  As a group, please complete SP 315/TE pg. 324.  Please allow the students some practice time by assigning them to complete student page 316/TE 325 odd #’s and page 318/TE 327#’s 1-13.

Please use the teacher’s edition to review the answers with the students. I have tabbed the pages for you with blue post it notes.

9:10-9:40am- Writing

The students have been working on a VOICE writing piece.  Please have the students get into their groups to complete their rough drafts.  At this time, please hand out the VOICE folders to each group.  About 5 minutes before clean up, please allow the students to share their letters with the class if they would like.

9:40am- Line Up

Please have the students place their writing into their VOICE folders and collect them please. Then, have the students line up at this time with their Music spiral notebooks.  Ask for the door holder and the line leader first and then the rest of the students. You will now take them to Music.

9:15-9:45am –Music

10:20-10:55~ Reading

Once everyone is seated, please let the students know that they will be continuing to work with their groups on their Reader’s Theater plays. The students will already have these plays at their desks underneath their blue baskets. Please remind students that they should be practicing using gestures, changing their tone of voice, facial expressions, etc… 

If possible, filter around the room and offer suggestions!!  They LOVE this!

10:53am~ Prepare for lunch.

At this time, please ask the students to hand the plays to the head of their tables.  These students are to then place the plays back underneath the baskets.

Now, ask them to take out their silent reading books so that they can read after lunch. 

Then, ask the door holder and line leader to line up.  Next, the students with lunch boxes line up, then everyone else may line up.

YOU MUST BE AT LUNCH BY 11AM!!

11:00-11:30am~ Lunch

11:35-12:00pm~ Silent Reading

As soon as the students return to class from lunch, they are to begin silently reading.  Please use the apple timer on the board to set the time for 25 minutes.  When the buzzer rings, the students will know to put their books away.

12:00pm-12:20pm~ Reading Practice

Students are to work independently in their BLAST OFF Reading Workbooks.  Please have them complete pages 29-35.  Please review answers with the class once the 20 minutes are up. (The pages are tabbed with blue post it notes).

12:20- 12:40pm~ Math Practice

After the review, students are then to work independently in their BLAST OFF Math Workbooks.  Please have the students complete pages 9-14.  Please review answers with the class once the 20 minutes are up.  When finished, please ask the students to place both books in their desks.  (The pages are tabbed with blue post it notes).

12:40-12:55pm-READ ALOUD

At this time, invite the students to the carpet for their read aloud of James and the Giant Peach.  Please read chapters 34, 35, 36.

12:55-1:00pm~Clean up and get ready for Science

Please have the students clean up and get their materials ready for Science.  When each table group is ready, have them line up at the water fountain in the hallway leading into Ms. Crane’s room. 

At this time, Ms. Crane’s students will be coming in the door for Math.

1:00pm-1:45pm~Math # 2

Please follow the same lesson as Math # 1.

1:45-2:00pm~Clean up/Dismissal

My students will be back in their room now.  They are to sit down FIRST and put away their Science Materials.  After they have done this, ask the students to please pick up 2 or 3 pieces of garbage. Then, please have Carolina stamp the student’s paw print sheets!  Tell the students that I will take care of their planners on Monday!  At this time, they may pack up!

1:55pm~ Please have the bus, walker and daycare students line up at the door.  Once they have all lined up, they may go out into the hallway. Then, ask for all of the car riders to line up at the fountain so that Ms. Crane  can take the car riders. You will have walker duty today and the dismissal list is attached

Once again, Thank you so much!  If you have any questions, you may ask Ms. Crane or Ms.Whitman who is across the hall!

Thank You,

Mrs. Perez

August 20, 2010 at 8:14 PM Leave a comment

Better NOW than Later

by: Jennifer Perez

Working in my room this week has been absolutely fabulous!  I have been able to work at my own pace while getting my classroom organized for my future kiddos.  Now that I’ve had several days in my classroom, I am now at the point where I can begin planning for the rest of the school year.  The items at the top of my list include:

  1. Previewing Cumulative Folders
  2. Plan for Lesson Plans
  3. Create Sub Plans

Previewing Cumulative Folders

Previewing my student’s Cumulative Folders is a task I take very seriously. These folders contain extremely valuable information about each individual student.  Such information may include: prior state testing with scores, past report cards, classifications, eligibility for special programs, reported behaviors and MUCH more!  Reading through the Cumulative Folders allows me the opportunity to get to know a bit about my students before actually meeting them.  The information gained is invaluable and is helpful in planning my 1st week of school.  If your school/district has such folders available for viewing, it is my strong professional opinion that you take some time to read through those of your future student’s!

Plan for Lesson Plans

I know this may sound confusing, but, please let me explain!  What I mean by ‘Plan for Lesson Plans’ is this ~ create a schedule of when you will be planning for each subject.  An old plan of mine looks like this:

Monday ~Plan Math in the morning

Tuesday ~Plan Writing during Specials (Art, P.E., Music)

Wednesday ~Plan Shared Reading in the Morning

Thursday ~ Plan Guided Reading after school

Friday ~Plan Social Studies during Specials (Art, P.E., Music)

By creating such a schedule, you will always know what subject you are planning for and when. The even better outcome is that you will always have your lesson plans completed before the weekend; leaving you time to enjoy yourself and your family!  I am a strong believer that rest and recuperation makes a much happier teacher!  So why not create a plan for Lesson Plan(s)?  Just try it out and I’m sure you will be a believer as well!

Create Sub Plans-You just never know

Let’s face it- life is unpredictable.  No matter how much we plan, cut and paste, sometimes it’s just not happening!  You are abruptly woken at 2:00am with a sick baby, the car breaks down or some other family emergency arises.  What do you do in situations like these when going to work for the day isn’t an option?  The answer?  Call in for a substitute teacher for the day, of course!  If you are like me, you try to plan as much in advance for your students as possible.  Planning for a substitute to be in your classroom for the day is no different.  Even though you aren’t at school- your students will be and they deserve to continue learning even if you aren’t there!  I highly recommend creating a ‘just in case’ set of Substitute Lesson plans…just in case…you know… you have to miss a day unexpectedly.  This way, your mind will be at ease while you are away AND your students will continue learning.  (Not to mention that the substitute teacher will be filled with joy at the thought of having a lesson plan to follow!)

Teachers, I tip my hat to you!  I believe that we truly do have one of the most difficult jobs, but we do it because we care!  Continue with your passion for children and watch as you change lives!

Happy Learning!

Copyright  Jennifer Perez 8/17/10

August 19, 2010 at 5:31 AM Leave a comment

Bookbag + Lifesaver = iSafe Bag

by: Jennifer Perez

iSafe Backpack ~ Introductory offer $59.98 regularly $69.99

When our black iSafe  School  Backpack arrived, my husband and I were excited to learn about this innovative safety bag.  Me being the kind of person I am, my first thoughts were, “ What exactly is this bag?” “Where can I buy it?”  “How does it work?”  Obvious questions for any curious parent.  In this aspect, my husband and I are very much the same.  Without a further thought, he grabbed the bag and WOW!  We found out exactly HOW the iSafe bag got its name!   After pulling the activation cord on the bag, an ear piercing sound came from this ordinary looking bag.  My husband fumbled to re-insert the activation cord which was found under the right shoulder flap.  That 30 second experience changed our lives forever.

About 260,000 children are abducted every year.  That number is amazing or better said, frightening.  Although nothing in this world is full proof, the iSafe bag helps in the defense of child abductions.  If shown how to properly use the iSAFE bag, a child can sound the alarm and ensure that the abduction does not go unnoticed.

As a parent you are always going to worry about your children.  All we can do is put safety nets in between our children and the dangers of the world to try to protect them.  This is a safety net that all children should have, and my child will always have.

© Jennifer Perez 8/18/10

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary ISafe Bag for this review. No other compensation was provided.


August 18, 2010 at 9:31 PM 3 comments

Mental Nutrition

by: Jennifer Perez

I have always big a strong supporter of teaching my students responsibility.  Being a 3rd grade teacher, I have always felt my students were a perfect age because they are NOT too young to function on their own and NOT too old to want to disagree with you.  I have used this to my advantage in my classroom!  Along with teaching the latest Math, Reading, Writing and Social Studies curriculum, I like to throw in a bit of the real world in my classroom.  I frequently have discussions with my students about their future: how to set goals for the future and how they must work HARD to achieve their goals.  Each year in my classroom, we ALWAYS have the, “you can be ANYTHING you want to be when you grow up conversation!”  I make sure to have this conversation with my students because I:

  1. Believe in that statement and
  2. I believe in them!

My school is classified as a Title I school- definition: Low income and high poverty.  Most of these students hardly have enough to eat each day.   They are not worried about what they are going to be when they grow up when their little tummies are grumbling.  Heartbreaking-I know, but it’s true!  As their teacher, it is my responsibility to plant this seed of knowledge and hope and to provide enough “mental nutrition” for their seeds to grow!  Once this knowledge has been given, it then becomes their responsibility to begin working on their future-with my guiding them of course!  “How can they do that when they are only 8 or 9 years of age?”  This is how:

  1. Asking questions when something isn’t clear
  2. Completing all homework assignments
  3. Thinking about what they enjoy doing.  Most of the times, I can connect their enjoyment to a career and share that information with them.
  4. Setting short term and Long-term goals

I think it important to note that if high expectations are set then our students and children will strive to meet and exceed those expectations.  Again I say, it is never too early to begin teaching younger ones responsibility.  When you break it down, they are the ones that are responsible for the futures and happiness.  It isn’t too early to begin to instill this concept into their young minds.

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 8/13/10

August 16, 2010 at 5:20 PM Leave a comment

5 Tips to get Back to School Ready ~ Teacher’s Edition

by: Jennifer Perez

I can hardly believe that in two short weeks, summer vacation will officially come to an end and I will once again be back in my classroom!  Knowing this day was quickly approaching, I have been preparing for going ‘Back to School’ for several weeks and wanted to share my 5 Tips to get Back to School Ready with my fellow educators! (Order of Tips does not signify order of importance.

1. Classroom Library ~ For me, having an impressive classroom library is crucial!  I enjoy scouting bargain books anywhere I can: Goodwill, garage sales, Thrift Stores and book fairs held by Scholastic.  I do my best to collect a variety of genres that will peak interests in my students.  At our school, the library is typically closed the 1st few weeks of school in order for Library Orientations to take place.  I don’t want the Library closure to be an excuse for my students to not have books to read.  Instead, I load up my library and make it as inviting and comfortable as possible with:

  • A lamp from home to give the library corner a ‘glow’
  • Pillows for relaxation
  • Reading quotes to provoke meaningful thoughts (and conversation with appropriate!)
  • Reading Glasses-these are old glasses with the lens popped out.  My students LOVE these and they LOVE wearing them while they read!

Summer time is the perfect time to start looking for books to build your classroom library AND collect items to place in your library to make it enjoyable.

2.  Building your Classroom Community ~ This is a piece where I spend a lot of my ‘thinking time.’  Building your classroom community is an extremely instrumental piece that AL teachers should consider doing at the beginning of the school year.  Building your classroom community will allow you students to:

  • Get to know their peers
  • Become familiar with their teacher-the rules, procedures and expectations
  • Feel at home in the classroom.  After all, your students may feel that their classroom is their 2nd home since they spend so much of their time there.  If they feel at ‘home’ then they most likely feel comfortable which is GREAT!  Feeling comfortable and at ease in the classroom is critical in promoting a ‘risk free’ learning environment.  The more learning risks your students are willing to make – the more opportunities they will have to learn!

3.Letter to Parents ~ Each school year, I draft a letter to the parents/guardians of my students.  I make sure to include:

  • Information about me: Name, brief background in my profession, contact information
  • Class Rules
  • Class Procedures ~ Homework, being tardy, etc…
  • Expectations I have for my students
  • Parent /teacher communication

Once I am sure the letter has everything I want my parents/guardians to know, I print out enough for each student and send home on the FIRST day of school.   In my experience, this has proven very beneficial because from Day 1,  to all stakeholders were made of aware of how the classroom runs and expectations for all students!  I make sure I reiterate to all parents/guardians that communication is extremely important.   I do my very best to make myself available before/after school, respond to emails same day and hold conferences once per 9 weeks period.  I truly believe that as educators we must do our best to work as a team with our student’s parents!

4. Post Cards ~ Over the summer, I write post cards to all of my future students.  I introduce myself as their teacher, tell them how thrilled I am to meet them and try to plant some excitement for the upcoming school year.  My purpose in doing this is to let my students know that I care about them and their learning …because I do!  Writing out the post cards will take less than an hour, but I promise it will be a memory that your student will hold near for a long time!  For me, seeing a my new 3rd grade student standing at the entryway to our room with the postcard in their hand is enough for me to continue this tradition each year!

5. State Standards ~ Review of your state’s academic standards is typically done once all teachers have returned back to work.  Sometimes, training will be conducted to show teachers how the standards have changed, been updated and what resources are available to you in order to teach the standards.  Woo – Hoo!

Knowing this, I still make it a point to review the standards over the summer so I have an opportunity to read over everything at my own pace.  If I have questions, I write them down and return to school with them to have them answered.  Knowing your state standards ahead of time will really make planning your lessons much easier since you will already know what MUST be taught vs. not!!

There you have it!! 5 Tips to get Back to School Ready ~ Teacher’s Edition!

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer vacation and get ready to change the life of a child!!

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/30/10

July 30, 2010 at 1:23 PM 4 comments

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