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Building Relationships with Students

August 27, 2014

 Precept of the Day


No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship of mutual respect.

Dr. James Comer

The master teacher is deliberate in establishing a functioning learning community by devoting time and energy to building relationships. The relationship between the teacher and the student is perhaps the most significant piece of the learning equation, followed closely by the relationships among students. Master teachers use activities on the first day of school that initiate this process and persist throughout the school year to continue to develop and maintain positive individual and group dynamics. While getting-to-know-you activities begin the process of forming positive relationships, team-builders continue the process and are used throughout the school year. (Carpenter, Fontanini, & Neiman, p. 80, 2010)

I have trouble convincing my pre-service teachers of this. They are so overwhelmed by the body of curricular content that they are responsible for teaching that they feel an immediate need to start teaching math on the first day. The truth is the time spent on building relationships during the first days and then revisited throughout the school year will provide a huge payout in the time saved on behavioral issues. You have to take the time now to save time later.Building Relationships in the Classroom

Five Ways to Build Relationships During the First Days of School

  1. Meet/Greet students at the door and get to know students’ names
    • Get your class lists and rehearse
    • Check last year’s yearbook for pictures
    • Use name tags, name tents, or desk plates. Have students decorate these with three of their favorite things.
    • Use a photo seating chart. (Great to have for substitutes too.)
    • Use activities to learn student names. Circle of Names: Direct students to sit or stand in a circle. Ask them to think of an adjective that describes them and starts with the first letter of their name. Provide a word bank of adjectives for each letter of the alphabet. Start by modeling. For example, if your name starts with an L, you could pick the word lucky, Lucky Linda. Have the first student share his or her first name and adjective. Move around the circle. Ask each student to share and repeat those before him/her. You will go last and repeat all the students’ names.
  2. Let students get to know you.
    • Have an engaging and creative way to introduce yourself to students as a real person. Create a PowerPoint, Prezi, or a movie trailer with pictures of you and your family enjoying your interests and hobbies.
  3. Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other.
    • Let students share their information like you did. They could create a PowerPoint, Prezi, movie trailer or a collage. There are a variety of get-to-know activities where students interview, interact, and share information. I have collected a variety of resources on my Get to Know Teacher and Student Pinterest Board. A great resource is Scholastic.
  4. Find out students’ interests. It’s easy. Ask them.
    • Have students complete a survey. You could easily do it in the classroom or  online with Survey Monkey or Google Forms. More Scholastic Printables.
  5. Have clear plans and procedures.
    • Procedures are the daily routines of the classroom and they being on the first day.
    • Have something for students to do as soon as they walk in on the first day and every day. Post it on the overhead or Smart board. Actively engaging students in their classroom is a powerful way to prevent problems and build community. Have students decorate name tents or name tags and be ready to share with a classmate.

Have a good school year with your students!


Organizing a Welcoming and Safe Classroom!

August 26, 2014

Linda C.:

Precept of the Day – Plan the Classroom Environment to Support Learning

Master teachers use the classroom space to support educational goals. They see the physical space as a component of teaching that can motivate and engage students, reduce behavioral problems, and heighten learning. (Carpenter, Fontanini, & Neiman, 2010, p. 72)


For this important precept on planning your classroom environment, I am re-blogging a previous post. As many of your are going back to school, don’t overlook the importance of the classroom environment.Classroom Layout

Originally posted on From Surviving to Thriving:

Many of you will soon be in your classrooms cleaning, sorting, and getting ready for your students. One of the first steps to creating positive classroom management is intentional planning and preparation of your space. The feeling your students get when they step into your classroom for the first time will have an influence on how they behave and react to you.

Even my adult learners notice and appreciate small flourishes I bring to the often sterile university classroom as I  make it my own space. Soft music is playing as my students arrive. A small bottle of  daisies or other flower is on each table. A pleasant candle or air freshener masks the stuffy institutional smell. Each table has needed supplies ready to use, and a variety of stress balls and squeeze toys to calm anxiety and help focus attention. It has been fun and interesting to see how popular and useful the stress balls have…

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It’s About Time

August 9, 2014

Precept of the Day

Time is priceless. You have it, but you don’t own it. You spend it, but you can’t keep it. And once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back. Use it wisely!



In our class this week we talked about the importance of time and organization in planning for and implementing a successful classroom. So much of what happens in our classrooms and during our instruction depends on careful planning and  organization. Being able to start each day calmly, with everything prepared and ready for the entire day, makes us more confident  teachers, and that has a profound impact on how we interact with our students and how we deliver our lessons. A big part of classroom management depends on preventing problems and engaging student interest. Being well-organized is foundational to this goal.

For master teachers,organizational skills are a must. Fundamentally, organization is a result of choices made on a minute-by-minute basis. A balance must be struck between over-organizing — in which everything has to be done a certain way — and under-organizing — in which everything is delegated to later. Finding an organizational style that works for you is the key. Figuring out what makes you feel successful regarding organization is a good place to start.

(Carpenter, Fontanini, & Neiman 2010)


Five Tips for Your To Do List:

  1. Review your To Do List at the end of the week and determine if this week’s planning worked for you. Continue with what worked. React to what did not work.
  2. Don’t expect to get every task completed on your weekly list—life happens and sometimes things do not get done. Don’t allow frustration with uncompleted tasks overwhelm you.
  3. Accept the reality that you cannot always expect to cross off all the tasks at the end of the week. If you are always left with a long list of unfinished tasks, do a reality check on yourself and your use of time. Prioritize.
  4. Do enjoy what you do well and reflect on what you can do better.
  5. Remember to put your needs on the list too. Plan time to stop for coffee, to talk to a friend, or to read a book.


Speak Up At School

August 5, 2014

Precept of the Day

The campaign against bigotry involves all of us. Each of our voices matters, and each is vital to creating inclusive schools—schools that embrace the great diversity of our nation.

So speak up. Don’t let hate have the last word.

Teaching Tolerance

precept 5

As educators we are continually striving for cultural awareness and socially responsible classrooms. My students just read  books or watched movies portraying diverse cultures. In our class we shared new ideas, asked questions, and committed to learning about all of our students.

There are excellent resources for teachers on Teaching Tolerance for both professional development and lesson ideas for working with students to prevent bias and bigotry.

The Speak Up At School pocket guide is an excellent resource for teachers and students to be ready to stand up to bias and bigotry. There are suggestions for ways to interrupt, question, educate, and echo others who speak up. Check out these resources:

Join us as we  Speak Up for all of our students.

We highly recommend the selections we read or watched to learn more about the diverse populations in our classrooms.

  • Antwone Fisher (2002). Fox Searchlight Pictures presents a Mundy Lane/Todd Black production, a Denzel Washington film ; produced by Todd Black, Randa Haines, Denzel Washington ; written by Antwone Fisher ; directed by Denzel Washington. [United States] 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
  • Bully (originally titled The Bully Project) [Motion Picture] (2011). The Weinstein Company. (Documentary film about bullying in U.S. schools. Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film follows the lives of five students who face bullying on a daily basis.)
  • Choi, Y. (2001). The name jar. New York: Dell Dragonfly Books. Ages 4-8.
  • Fleischman, P. (1997). Seedfolks. New York: HarperCollins. Ages 9-13.
  • Grimes, N. (2006). The road to Paris. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Recorvits, H. (2003). My name is Yoon. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Ages 4-8.
  • Satrapi, M. (2003). Persepolis: The story of a childhood. New York: Pantheon. Ages 15 and older.
  • Smith, C.L. (2002). Indian shoes. New York: HarperCollins. Ages 6-9.
  • Yang, G.L. (2006). American born Chinese. New York: First Second. Ages 13 and older.
  • Higashida, N.  The reason I jumpThe inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism (Translation) (2013). New York: Random House.
  • Sapphire. (1997). Push: a novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

For more multicultural literature check out resources at  The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) is a unique examination, study and research library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Be a Part of Your School Community

July 30, 2014

This morning my husband sent me the flyer displayed below. At first I thought, I can’t put that on my blog. My blog is for professional posts only, but it is my blog. Then I reviewed my lesson for this evening, part of which focuses on the importance of building professional relationships or Engaging in School Culture. I know that my husband’s involvement and decision to chair this year’s Milwaukee Heart Walk, grew out of his professional relationships. While it is for a great cause and a disease that has affected too many of our family and friends, the walk itself will be a fun opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends outside of the work place. Relationships will be strengthened and new relationships formed.

Healthy connections among staff and faculty in the building serve as a model for students and their families. Often, dysfunctional school cultures can trace the root of the problem to poor communication practices, the inability to work together, or the isolation of staff and faculty. Building a community takes intentional effort. By reaching out to others and getting to know people, teachers build relationships.   It is only through positive relationships and effective communication that people trust each other and invest themselves in the community.

(Carpenter, Fontanini, & Neiman, 2010)

That all led me to the realization of the connection to today’s precept. It really is all about relationships, whether in the classroom, my school, my community, or my work place.

Precept of the Day

The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else.

(Barth, 2006)


Consider organizing a team for the Heart Walk at your school.


Feel free to support the cause in any way. Donations are welcome, but we would love you to join us for the walk.

David’s Personal Heart Walk Page


Barth, R. (2006). Improving relationships within the school house. Educational Leadership, 63(6), 8-13.

Interactive Notebooks – Best Practice

July 29, 2014

I’m using interactive notebooks as a strategy in my current class. It is a new tool for me, but I am enjoying it and I think/hope my students are too. I’m giving my students a lot of choice in how they use it. (Think learning style, differentiation, and Best Practice.) It’s a work in progress. So far we have used it in these ways:

  • We begin each class with the Precept of the Day which connects to the objective/focus of the lesson. (See previous posts.) I prepare a foldable with the Precept of the Day. Students create their page and add their reflections both written and graphically.
  • We end each class with a reflection. What have we learned? Do we now have a deeper understanding or appreciation?
  • During class students are encouraged to add any ideas or information they want to remember or learn more about. Students have added sections and organized in the way that is most meaningful and useful to them.
  • We have shared our pages and talked about them with classmates.
  • We have taken pictures of our favorite page and emailed/texted it to the instructor as an Exit Slip/formative assessment.


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I want a rationale for the strategies I employ in my lessons, and I want to share the supporting literature with my students. The Interactive Notebook connects well with principles of Best Practice.

From the Cognitive Cluster of Best Practice:

Constructivist: Children do not just receive content; in a very real sense, they re-create and reinvent every cognitive system they encounter, including language, literacy, and mathematics. Students’ work in school building knowledge through inquiry, not simply listening to someone else mention information.

Expressive: To fully engage with ideas, construct meaning, and remember information, students must regularly employ the whole range of communicative media–speech, writing, drawing, poetry, dance, drama, music, movement, and visual arts.

Reflective: Balancing the immersion in experience must be opportunities for learners to reflect, debrief, and abstract from their experiences what they have thought and learned. Putting that reflection to work, students set goals for themselves, monitor their progress, and take responsibility for their own growth.

(Zemelman, S., Daniels, H.., & Hyde, A., 2012, 8-9)

Effective teachers are continually trying new ideas and adding to their toolbox.

Zemelman, S., Daniels, H.., & Hyde, A. (2012). Best practice: Bringing standards to life in America’s schools (4th Ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Partnering with Parents

July 25, 2014

While the student-teacher relationship is crucial to classroom success, also important is partnering with parents and caregivers to support students in your classroom. Parents deserve to hear how their students are doing and to be involved in the planning and goal setting for their student’s growth. Remember it is your responsibility to foster this relationship with communication and invitations to partner with you. Parents who have not had good school experiences themselves need support and encouragement.



What can teachers do to encourage parent support?

  • Send a welcome letter to all parents introducing yourself and sharing information about your classroom/content.
  • Include your contact information and times to call school. Invite parents to call you with information and concerns.
  • Call home. Begin the very first week of school and call all parents to connect and share something positive about each student. It will make difficult phone calls easier if you have already connected.
  • Send email updates and reminders about units, projects, assessments, class activities.
  • Publish a class newsletter or website.
  • Ask parents about their students with parent questionnaires.
  • Invite  parents to volunteer or share their expertise in your classroom.
  • Invite parents to school events.
  • Prepare well for parent-teacher conferences.
  • Consider home visits.

As you plan for a successful school year, include families in your plans.

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