Two Stars and a Wish!

Today I'm linking up to share two star ideas that have worked well in my classroom, 
as well as one wish that I would like to work on this year!

 Star #1 is my Super Improver Wall.  It's one of my favorite classroom management components!  This year will be my third year using the wall.  The concept comes from Whole Brain Teaching, but I have definitely tweaked it to meet my students' needs.  It is one of the best intrinsic motivators that I have used in my eight years of teaching.  If you are curious about how I use my wall, visit the post that I wrote {here}.

Super Improver Wall

Star #2 is one of my favorite first day of school activities!  I have always taken a photo of each student on the first day of school, but a few years ago, I made an adorable frame after seeing a few frames on Pinterest.  

First Day of School Photo Frame

My dad helped me make the frame by nailing some plywood together.  Then, I spray painted the wood black.  The letters are actually sticky foam letters from Micheals, so they stuck directly to the wood without any glue!  The images are pre-painted wooden cut-outs that you can get from the wood aisle of Michaels.  I stuck on the images with a glue gun.  Easy as that!  

I take each student's photo against my SmartBoard because of the white background.  I use these photos to make a cute welcome back bulletin board outside my classroom.  I also print a set to send one home with each student-- they are a great keepsake for families!  A few weeks into the school year, we have a Parents' Night and I use these photos in a musical slide show as parents are coming into the room.  They are always a hit!  

And finally, my wish this school year is to work on my writing instruction.  Writing is the most challenging area for me to teach because of the amount of differentiation it requires.  In second grade, the levels vary from students learning how to write a complete sentence to students who are ready to publish stories.  My absolute favorite book for writing instruction is No More I'm Done by Jennifer Jacobson.  I love all of the mini lessons the book provides!  This year, I am hoping to lay out a framework of mini lessons and stick with them!

If you are looking for a fun back to school writing project for your students, check out my writing pack: iStudent.

iStudent: All About Me Book

If you enjoyed these star ideas, please consider following me on TPT, Facebook, or Pinterest.  

For more star ideas, please browse through the link-up below!  Thanks for visiting!


Monday Made It!

It's been a year or two since I linked up to Monday Made It!  I guess I haven't been very crafty lately!  I'm pretty excited about my projects this week.  They were created at my friend, Amanda's, Pinterest Party.  Her party was a great idea.  She hosted a private collaborative Pinterest board and shared access with all of the people invited to the party.  We all pinned ideas that we wanted to create onto the board.  Then, we "liked" our favorite projects.  The projects with the most votes were what we created at the party.  It was great to finally be able to create some items on my crafting to do list!

Up first is my apple print painting!  It was inspired by {this} pin.  

EduKate and Inspire: Create an apple print painting!

I LOVE how it turned out!  My classroom has a blue, green, and black theme, so this will be great for some added color.  Unfortunately, I did not take any photos while making the project {possibly because we were eating these while crafting}.  Here are the steps I followed:

1) Using a sponge brush, paint the canvas black with acrylic paint.  The one in the inspiration pin has a white background, which looks great too.  It took about 20 minutes to dry.  

2) Cut an apple in half.  You can use the apple as is, or cut some grooves into it with a knife for a more rustic feel.

3) Choose your apple print colors.  I went with turquoise with an accent of white.  

4) Pour some paint on a paper plate.  Using a sponge brush, paint your apple.  

5) Gently press the apple onto the canvas.  For some of the prints, I put my hand behind the canvas and pressed against the apple.  This helped to add a deeper print and give the canvas some variety.  Repaint the apple and repeat the process! 

6) Let it dry and enjoy! 

The second project I made at the Pinterest Party is a pencil vase!  It was inspired by {this} pin.  I am thinking about making these as a back to school gift for my teammates, so I wanted to try it out first.  

{If my teammates are reading this post, please pretend you never saw this.}

EduKate and Inspire: Create a pencil vase for your classroom!

It was super easy to make! 

1) Grab a cheap vase.

2) Put a flat rubber band around the vase.

3) Tuck pencils into the rubber band all the way around the vase.  {If you are feeling ambitious, you could also glue or tape the pencils onto the vase.  We tried a glue gun, double sided tape, and scotch tape, but didn't have much luck}.  The rubber band trick works great, but it's not a very secure hold so your pencils need a bit of adjusting after you set the vase down.

4) Cover up the rubber band with a ribbon and tie a bow!  

5) Fill with water and flowers.  Sunflowers or daisies would look super cute in a pencil vase!  I took the easy route and cut some flowers out of my garden yesterday {and they are already dead today... oops}.  

My last project this week was a product update!  I am in the process of changing the covers on my ugly products.  Not only did I change the cover on this one, but I also added more pages to the pack.  My students always get very excited to create their iStudent book!  They love anything techie :)

This is my old cover.  Very rainbow and slightly busy...

Here is my new one! 

IStudent All About Me Book

Much better.

You can check out iStudent {here}.  Check out the preview to see examples of all of the pages.  
It's on sale for the next few days! :)

Happy crafting!


Elevate Empathy: A Book Study of What's Under Your Cape

Elevate Empathy: A Book Study of What's Under Your Cape

I am very excited to be participating in a book study of Barbara Gruener's book, What's Under Your Cape? Barbara's blog, The Corner on Character, is a wonderful resource for character education and I have been a long time reader!  The summary of What's Under Your Cape states that it serves as, "A guide to help elementary teachers infuse virtues, values, and traits into the habits, routines, and culture of their character-building so that their superheroes can soar."  Barbara's Book is a quick read filled with practical ideas for your classroom!  I am lucky to be hosting Chapter 4, which focuses on the character trait of empathy.  Keep reading until the end for your chance to win your own copy!

Teaching Empathy

As a 2nd grade teacher and licensed counselor, character education is a key component of my classroom. Out of all of the character traits, empathy is one of the most important traits {in my opinion!}  If we can teach students how to see situations from different perspectives, all of the other character traits will begin to come naturally.

One of the first tools Barbara suggests for teaching empathy is children's literature.  Barbara states, "Children who read fiction have higher levels of empathy; the more students read, the more opportunities they have to learn about, experience, and embrace empathy."  I completely agree with this statement!  By using children's literature, we can expose our students to many situations that help them begin to think critically about empathy.  Barbara suggests several books for eliciting empathy.  Two of my favorites are:

Chapter 4 also suggests some hands-on activities to elicit empathy.  I love the practical experience Barbara explains on page 40, in which the teacher presents three shoeboxes containing different types of shoes--toddler shoes, boy's slippers, and women's sneakers.  As the teacher opens up each shoebox to present the shoes, she reads aloud a story about the owner of the shoes.  For example, when the boy's slippers are presented, the teacher reads a story that describes the boy in the following way:

"I am staying home today because I have a tummy ache.  Actually, I just moved this summer because Mom and Dad broke up, and I don't like my new school because I don't feel safe there yet... My mom says she'll get fired if she has to keep taking off of work to stay home with me.  Put yourself in my shoes.  What do you think is going on with me?  How can I fit in better at my new school so these butterflies in my tummy go away?  What do I need?"

The activity continues with the teacher reading aloud similar thought-provoking scenarios that match the other shoes.  What a powerful discussion for you to have with your students!  I can imagine that this activity would spark your students to share some of their own stories, too.  

Chapter 4 also describes ways to move empathy to the behavioral domain by helping your students seize opportunities to help others both in the school and their community:

Who might need a playmate at recess today?  
Who might appreciate having their leaves raked?
Who might benefit from their dog being taken for a walk?  

Barbara suggests a great visual for empathy--having students use their "empathy switch" to trade places with someone.  A practical example of this is to ask your students, "If you traded places with our school custodian, would the school bathrooms be cleaner?"  By presenting students with "empathy switch" scenarios, you can help them reframe their thinking and elicit empathy!

All of the ideas above can be found in just one chapter of Barbara's book!  Here are a few more of my favorite ways to teach empathy in the classroom:

{Great video for introducing empathy in K-2 classrooms!}

{This is my favorite video for empathy that would be great for grades 2-6}

{Wonderful short poem about empathy for upper grades}

When I was working on my school counseling internship last school year, I also used a few more activities to represent empathy with some of my small groups.  Optical illusions are a great resource!  Here are two of my favorite images for discussions:

Love love love this graphing activity to go with the book Duck! Rabbit!

I highly recommend Barbara Gruener's book, What's Under Your Cape?  Check out her book on Amazon to read more reviews or click on the links below to check out other reviews from this book study!  Chapter 5 of the study will be reviewed on Tuesday at Time 4 Kindergarten and Learning Lessons with Mrs. Labrasciano.  Stop by their blogs on Tuesday to read about Respect!  Feel free to participate and add your own review of the book to our link-up to the widget below the Rafflecoptor!

Last, but not least, how would you like to win your own copy of What's Under Your Cape?!!
Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below!!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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