Top December Pinterest Picks

 Today I'll be linking up with two of my favorite bloggers for our top Pinterest picks!!! Thank you PAWSitively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner for hosting this.

This first idea comes from First Grade Blue Skies . It's super cute, easy and eye catching.  Everything that the busy teacher wants in a holiday board!!!!

I was turned on to this second idea because Miss Peluso's Kindergarten posted it on Instagram.  The post came from Scribble Shop. We plan on doing these cards in class to accompany our TBA Christmas presents.  My teaching partner is in charge of those this year!!!! We will make one template, copy it on card stock and have the kids print away.  Thank you Gina for the idea:)

Last, but not least, photo ideas!!! We are a last minute family when it comes to the extras like cute Christmas photos.  You'll have to follow me on Instagram to see which pose we choose.

Teacher Communication In The Classroom

Communication In The Classroom with Mrs. Labrasciano

Every teacher knows the feeling of standing in front of a class, delivering a lesson and then quickly coming to the understanding that most of the class has no idea what they said.  We go through the lesson in our heads and sometimes we may wonder, WHAT WENT WRONG?????? Often times it's not just one aspect of the delivery that went asunder, but instead a lot of factors that play into communication within a classroom.

Over 400 languages are spoken in the school system of The United States.  That's a lot for any teacher to keep up with.  Couple these languages with different learning styles and learning disabilities and we have a big task at hand.  Thankfully for us, visual communication is universal.  Below you will find suggestions for communicating within the class that will benefit all students and ensure student comprehension.
Clear communication with visual cues and consistency can help students to understand what is expected of them.  This provides a sense of security for the students that allows them to focus on learning.  In the pictures above and below, you will see a CHAMP model.  It stands for Communication, Help, Activity, Movement and Participation.  This model was adapted from the book CHAMPS: A Proactive and Positive Approach To Classroom Management.  You can see in the top picture how each letter is introduced to the students.  Below you will see that each option has a picture with it so that students who may not have complete language acquisition yet get a visual representation of what is expected of them.  The only pictures missing are for Participation.  Our report card has four options for primary students: Excellent, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement and Unsatisfactory. For each lesson students brainstorm what is expected of them and come up with a rubric.  After they brainstorm the rubric, the teacher writes it on the board with the "E,S,and N" letters.  Discussing this CHAMP model before work is started allows the students to have a firm grasp on what is expected of them.  This helps assure clear communication with the students.  It also helps students to understand where their report card grades come from.

 Another way of  communicating with students  through pictures is to allow the students to have copies of anchor charts in a notebook.  This is a great way for students to reference what they are learning.  In the picture below, you will see an example of one anchor chart.  I included a picture within the anchor chart to help with student comprehension.  Students tab the pages with the topic of the anchor chart so that they can reference it at a later date if needed.
Personal Anchor Charts

Below you will find an anchor chart that stays up in the classroom for communicating expectations of writing conventions.  Writing can be difficult for all students.  It is exceptionally difficult for students acquiring the language or with learning disabilities.  Students have a big task at hand.  They have to understand sentence structure, conventions and vocabulary meaning.  Pictures, color cues and highlighting are used to draw attention to important aspects of writing in the anchor chart below.

Classroom Communication
You may notice in the picture below and throughout this post that students are given a lot of personal resources to communicate learning objectives.  This decision to give them personal resources allows them to focus on the task at hand.  It lessens the information coming from other sources helping to keep the objective clear to the students.  It also helps to keep the learning environment free of clutter so that the students feel at ease.  Feeling safe, secure and at ease helps the students to focus on learning.
Personal Writing Offices

Building Vocabulary
 Vocabulary is another big factor in communication within the classroom.  Building vocabulary is a must for any successful class.  In order to help with communication and comprehension in lessons, I build background knowledge of vocabulary.  You can do this by starting with a simple lesson on a certain topic.  Some examples are shown in the pictures above and below.  Above you will see the students learning about butterflies.  Below you will see a sports theme.  The subsequent lessons to the butterfly lesson will include butterflies.  However, the objective of the lesson will change from vocabulary to another standard.  Now that students feel comfortable with butterfly vocabulary, they will be able to focus on comprehending the text's main idea or another objective.  Once the students have a schema for a certain topic, you can increase lesson complexity with success!

Building Vocabulary
Tackling all aspects of communication within one post would be next to impossible.  I hope that I have given you some tips that you can take back to your classroom.  Please leave any questions that you have in the comment field.  If you would like to read more about how students communicate with one another in my classroom you can read my post on Classroom Discussion over on my collaborative blog The Primary Pack.

Classroom Conversations

Classroom Conversations

Hey everyone! Today I want to talk to you about talking.  I'm not teasing you.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  One of my strengths is my stamina in talking.  Just like me, some children are natural born conversationalists.  You know these children.  You usually have to read "Lacey Walker Non Stop Talker" to them.  Some children are not talkers.  They would prefer to sit to the side quietly and listen. These children pose a special consideration when it comes to having classroom conversations.  It is very important for all of us to discuss what we are learning.  It helps us to process information.  Children gain so much information from speaking and listening to their peers.They are exposed to alternative ideas.  Maybe their peers help them to consider new options or change their thinking.  While the children are having these conversations, they could be analyzing and synthesizing information that you taught them! The wonders of higher level thinking.

Talking about our thinking
If you have ever worked with or spoken to young children, you know the key to getting everyone to talk.  Just bring up something that interests them! This is the key to starting conversations in your class. Student interest driven learning.  At the onset of every school year we send home interest surveys.  One to the parent and one to the student.  We are most interested in the student.  We want to know what interests them.  If I have a classroom full of students who love whales, I will be sure to teach a standard with a book on whales.  Our district tried to throw a wrench into my plan this year by telling us that we have to teach from the basal. Oh the horror.  At this point, we switched our focus to how the students enjoy learning.  They are quick to tell us "I love projects where we get to create posters!"  Easy enough, we will be reading that basal story and creating posters.  The kids love telling us all about their posters and discussing their peer's posters.  After every unit we have the students give us feedback on their engagement.  Did their learning environment keep them happy? This is super easy.  Simply ask, "How did you like the project today?" They are easy to please, they just ask for more projects that I can tweak to meet their learning needs (which they may not consider).  They also understand that we can't do things their way every time, but we will do our best.

Once you have their interest, you can sneak in procedures for conversations.  This is where you give students talking stems.  Teach them how to start conversations about their learning.  Guide them in accountable talk.  Most importantly, teach them how to respect their peers.  If you are listening to a conversation in my class, you will probably hear "I like your thinking and I would like to add".  You may hear, "I appreciate your thoughts, but I respectfully disagree".  This happened in my 1st grade classes in years past and it happens in my 2nd grade class presently.

If you don't already hear these conversations in your class, here's how you can get started.

1.  Plan super engaging lessons that your kids will love to talk about.

2.  Discuss why conversations are important with your class.  Make sure to relate it to why it is important to the student.

3.  Set procedures and guidelines for conversations for the students.  

4.  Give the students talking stems.  Start with basics that they can use for everything.
I agree with you because…
I disagree with you because…
I like your thinking and would like to add…

5.  Once they have the basics down you can add on to their thinking stems.  Consider giving them specific stems that go well with their learning topic.

If you need more direction or want the lessons and materials all ready for you, just click on the picture below to link to my store.

Holidays Around The Blog

The holidays can be a tricky road to navigate in the classroom.  We have to honor everyone's traditions, keep the rigor in our lessons until our last dying breath (eye roll) all while having fun so that we keep student engagement up.  This linky is designed to bring you engaging lessons and ideas from all over the globe.  Have fun looking around!

Winter Activities

One of my favorite winter time authors is Jan Brett.  Her books build childhood memories and the artwork is captivating.  You never have to worry about your students loving these books.  No matter what the background of your students, you can always find a book that is suitable for the holidays.
Gingerbread Friends

Every child loves Jan's gingerbread books.  One of my favorites is "Gingerbread Friends".  It's always fun to copy a template on brown paper.  Have the students paint it with drip glue, dust it with cinnamon and decorate.  This is the perfect opportunity to use washi tape!  To add rigor, consider having your students write character traits on an index card to display with the gingerbread friend.  If you are in need of a quick keepsake, punch a hole through the top of the gingerbread friend and tie a ribbon.  Don't forget to put the date on the back of the keepsake.

Gingerbread Craft

Does "The Hat" qualify for a classic yet?  Everyone loves their favorite hedgehog Hedgie.  Here's a lesson suggestion for you:  Copy a template of a hedgehog for students to color and cut out.  Have them cut the back so that the spikes stick up like a real hedgehog.  This book is great for problem and solution.  For a quick lesson, have the students write the problem and solution to display with their hedgehog.

Fun with Hedgie from "The Hat"

The students love hands-on learning.  This next lesson can be used to compare "Snow Bears" to "Goldilocks and The Three Bears".  Give the students three index cards.  Have them cut one of the index cards in half.  On the two smaller index cards they will right the differences of the books.  They can write the similarities on the larger card.  Once they have all of their writing done they can tape the cards together to form an igloo.

Snow Bears

One of my favorite activities has always been making dioramas.  Students must use key details from the book in order to make an accurate diorama.  Our class used the book "Trouble With Trolls" for the diorama that is below.  This is a great book for problem/solution, character traits and retelling.

Trouble With Trolls

At the beginning of every year we send home a questionnaire asking parents what holidays they celebrate.  When everyone celebrates Christmas, the Christmas books come out.  The rest of this blog contains some of my most beloved Jan Brett Christmas books.

The Wild Troll Writing

If you have not read "Home For Christmas" you must do so right now.  This book has a great lesson for children.  In the book, the wild troll child thinks that his parents are too strict and he runs off for greener pastures.  Every child should respond to this book by writing about the lesson.  For a fun narrative, have the students write about their time as wild troll.

Troll Writing

Nothing is more engaging to a child then having them put their picture in a piece.  Below you will see the cover to a creative writing piece that the student's did in response to "The Wild Christmas Reindeer".  They wrote a story about the time they trained Santa's reindeer.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer

The story "Christmas Trolls" is another great read for author's message.  In the book two trolls struggle with compassion and a giving heart.  I like to have students make a horse of their own and do an exchange with a friend.  They love giving to others.  This is a great opportunity to have them write a story with feelings.
Christmas Trolls

Jan's newest book which just came out last month is "The Animals' Santa".  This book is wonderful for predicting.  You could make a quick foldable out of construction paper.  Have the students predict what animal is the Santa.
The Animals' Santa

If you find yourself busy and want the printables together and ready to go for you, you can purchase my Jan Brett unit by linking from the picture below.

Winter Crafts and Literacy Activities

We would love for you to have some extra dough this winter to put together some holiday lessons for your class.  Enter below for a chance to win an Amazon Giftcard.

Click on the links below to visit the other bloggers with holiday lessons for you!

Failing Teachers

A fellow teacher recently told me that this was her last year teaching, I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not.  She isn't the first teacher who has told me she's done, honestly I've lost count of the amazing teachers who have left the classroom.  I'm not really sure that anyone ever notices.  When I asked this teacher to tell me why she was leaving, tears started to fill our eyes.  In fact, they're still flowing as I write this post.  She recounted what we all know.  The work load that we are assigned is never done.  We are compelled to earn endorsement after endorsement that we pay for.  We spend hours away from our families during our personal time to receive these endorsements and receive no pay for the time.  All of these requirements are taking us away from our students who need us.  These students are facing circumstances that you can't even imagine.  Divorce, child abuse, neglect, loss of loved ones, hunger, just to name a few.  This is happening in all of our schools, not just the ones that you see in the news.  We need to be there to help these children, but we are too stressed to think clearly.  To top it off, we have an evaluation system that tells us in no uncertain terms that we just can't do it all, EVER.  We are left feeling inadequate.  The extra hours and energy that we are spending in the classroom leave us in turmoil at home.  We can't keep up with all of the demands that are placed on us, so we are left feeling inadequate at home as well.  The message that teachers have received is "You are never good enough".

Bill and Melinda Gates honored my district with a $100 million grant (one-hundred-million-dollars).  They did this with the understanding that our district would match the grant money, that's $200 million dollars.  Their objective:  to improve student achievement by rethinking how best to support and motivate teachers to elevate their game during the adoption of the Common Core curriculum and beyond. (  This objective was translated in our district by hiring good teachers out of the classroom to become teacher evaluators.  Our evaluation system is pages and pages long evaluating us on every nuance that could ever happen in the classroom all in the span of a twenty minute lesson to an hour long lesson.  No part of the evaluation system in itself is evil, each area individually sounds reasonable.  I would even dare to say that you could meet all of the requirements in a lesson. We still have to ask what this system costs the student, teacher and administrators? It takes hours upon hours of time to prepare a lesson that would meet the accomplished and exemplary ratings.  These are the two acceptable ratings.  I keep reading that we are provided with more meaningful feedback at the conclusion of these lessons than prior to the new evaluation system.   I personally have not been given information that is more meaningful to me as a teacher than I was before the new system.  In fact, I have spent quite a bit less time with my administration because most of their time is spent doing half of our evaluations.  That's right, in my district we are double evaluated, by the peer evaluator and administrator.  There is no data that supports that this evaluation system is providing a higher quality education for our students.  In reality, the data shows that the students in elementary schools are fairing no better.  

My colleagues and I have seen something strange happen over the last year.  We thought that we had figured the whole evaluation system out.  We were receiving scores that made us proud, then all of a sudden part of the teacher's pay was going to be linked to the evaluation scores.  My teaching has improved according to the stakeholders that observe my classroom, but my scores are slipping. Areas where I had always received exemplary were now accomplished.  In some cases these scores were dropped even lower.  Evaluators were sent back for re-calibration (that means they had to fine tune the scores they were giving).  Now I certainly hope that we didn't recalibrate our evaluators so our teachers don't score beyond a means that we can pay them.  Surely I must be mistaken by correlating these two events, but I doubt it.

Teachers don't like talking about feeling inadequate.  We would prefer to quietly work away in our classrooms doing what is best for our students.  We certainly don't want people thinking that we are inept at our jobs.  These feelings keep teachers from talking to people outside of the classroom honestly about what is happening.  Please understand that teachers aren't well.  The reality is that at the very least they are stressed beyond a healthy means.  I personally cannot control my autoimmune disease because stress triggers my symptoms.  Some teachers have had nervous break downs, certified breakdowns as diagnosed by a psychiatrist.  Some have gone to their doctors and been prescribed medication for anxiety.  Others have increased unhealthy lifestyles to compensate for their stress.  Others are just leaving the classroom for a less abusive environment.  These are not rare cases.  I can no longer find a teacher in the classroom that enjoys teaching under these means.  Where is our union? Where are the sane people that should be supporting us? Possibly they are all on the "I Hate Common Core" bandwagon.  Too busy to notice what the real problem is because they are sheep believing everything that they read on Facebook.  

So how do we fix this mess that we are in? I'm personally going to focus on what's important in the classroom, my students.  When I leave the classroom, I'm going to focus on my family.  I'm going to rely more on my intuition of what is right, and less on what other people tell me.  I'm going to try really hard to care less about this ridiculous evaluation system.  We need to stand up for what's right and tell stakeholders "no" when they add more to our list.  I'm also pleading with everyone to rally together to help with a resolution to this problem.  Let's fix it together before it gets ugly.  If nothing changes and I have to choose, I choose my family.  It doesn't have to be that way though, we don't have to keep losing good teachers.  Stakeholders can fix this problem.  Get rid of this ridiculous evaluation system.  Spend the money on allowing mentors to come in the room and collaborate with the teachers, side by side in an environment that supports learning.  Stop adding to the teacher's list!  Let us focus on our lesson plans and students.  Allow administrators to walk into the classroom and determine if we are doing a good job with a simple checklist and an end of the year evaluation. Please stop over complicating classroom responsibilities and leave the teaching to the people who are most qualified- the teachers.

Florida Teacher Blogger Meeting Fall 2014

SeaWorld of Orlando was very gracious and welcoming this past weekend by offering a lovely venue for our meeting.  Their staff went above and beyond to take care of us.  This mother dolphin and her baby were just too cute for words!

Putting together a meeting for a large group takes a lot of work and coordination.  These lovely ladies were such a joy to work with.  They certainly took a challenging task and made it fun.  A HUGE thank you and hug goes out to each one of them.  From left to right:  Tammy from The Space Coast Teacher, Lisa from Learning Is Something To Treasure, Bridget from Hard Core Teacher Resources, Melissa from More Time 2 Teach, Mary from A Classroom Full of Smiles and me, Amy.

It was such as pleasure talking with this lovely group of women.  They have so much to offer the teaching world.  I just love catching up with them.  We were able to share different tips and techniques that we are implementing in our classrooms. It also nice spending time with people who really get your trials and tribulations.

Aside from talking about teaching tips, we also like seeing what teachers are buying for their classrooms and just for fun.  The following vendors were gracious enough to offer us a glimpse into their stores. introduced us to their Classroom Faces shirts.  These are adorable and super reasonable.  I was seriously shocked to see that they could print them this cheap for teachers!!! They will upload pictures that your students drew of themselves and put together a classroom t-shirt for you.  You can click on the t-shirts to see their store.

We also learned that Shutterfly has a company called Treat.  They can personalize all kinds of teacher swag.  They sent all of the teachers the cutest teacher mugs.  This is right up my alley since I'm a coffee-holic.  I know what I'll be giving my girl's teachers this year!!!! Speaking of treats, Blue Bird Bake Shop spoiled us with the most delicious cupcakes.  The icing in itself tasted like a dessert.

Paper Virgo had the most beautiful jewelry that they offered each one of the teachers who came to the meeting.  I was just blown away by their generosity.  The jewelry was exquisite.

Everyone who knows me well knows that I am a Gator Girl.  I am very proud to say that I graduated from The University of Florida.  I cannot tell you how excited I was to win this hand-made bracelet from Bridget at Bridgeations on Etsy.  It is definitely my happy statement.

Planbook introduced us to their on line lesson planning.  It was most impressive to learn that the program automatically adjusts your lesson plans if you don't finish a lesson or have to reteach it.

I will leave you all with the view that I had at dinner with Meredith from Creativity To The Core, Elyse from A Is For Apples, Melissa from More Time 2 Teach and Mary from A Classroom Full Of Smiles.
Take care of yourself,

Classroom Conversations on The Primary Pack

Hey guys! I'm blogging all about classroom conversations over on The Primary Pack Blog.  I would just love it if you would go over there to read what I have to say.