31 Days Left to Build Relationships!

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching. Its a time when many teachers and students are excited and counting down to summer break!

On the other hand, it is also a time when many of our students are NOT excited about the summer because school is safest and most comforting place for them. NOW is when they need us the most! This is the perfect time to reinvest that relationship building time with your students to finish the year on a high note! My principal, Rebecca Roper, ran across this great idea from Jessica Johnson on Twitter, and we fixed it up for the rest of Donahoe’s school year to help our staff come up with some quick ways we can continue to build those relationships with our students to finish out the year. You can check out the PDF here.

We have 31 days left this school year. 31 days left to make a difference in our students lives. 31 days left to show our students we really care about them. 31 days left to let our students know they aren’t just a test score. 31 days left to finish the year on a high note. 31 days left to be that amazing teacher we know you can be!  Let’s make it happen!!!

Classroom Concert Ticket for the 1st Day of School

Getting the hottest ticket in town for the big concert that’s coming is always exciting. To be one of the select few that got a ticket to that sold out event is always a rewarding time. A huge venue for a concert may have 45,000 tickets for that event. That being said, tickets to your classroom event are limited to a very small 20-25 seats! Why can’t we make it exciting for our students to receive one of these most coveted tickets of the year?? Those tickets would be exponentially harder to get!

Why not create your own tickets to your classroom “concert” and get your students pumped for the upcoming year. In steps http://faketicketgenerator.com!  This site is extremely easy to use. Simply input the information you’d like to appear on your classroom concert ticket in the text boxes on the left of the screen and click “Make My Ticket!” button. The site auto generates your information and creates a .jpg image. Right click the image to save, and your done. To make it even more personable for each students, you can click the back button and customize your Row and Seat numbers to your students’ alphabetical number many teachers assign for organizational purposes.

How awesome would it be as a student to receive a letter from your teacher before the first day of school receiving your “Sold Out” exclusive ticket to the classroom concert of the year.  You could even pass them out to the students at Open House/Fee Night before the first day as well. Building that 1st day excitement of “this is the place everyone wants to be” is a great way to start building those positive relationships within your class.

This is Sandston!

Sandston Areas of Focus 17_18 from Tyler Hart on Vimeo.

LEGOs, Engagement, and Ed Sheeran?

I ran across this awesome video about Ed Sheeran and how he made the biggest song of 2017, “Shape of You.”  If you aren’t a big Ed Sheeran fan, just skip ahead to the 2:30 mark of the video below.  Sheeran, along with his team, worked for an hour and a half making this song and trying to perfect it, but from past experience with working with Sheeran, his colleague, Johnny McDaid, knows that his attention span while working can be fairly low. To combat this low attention span, Johnny realized that he could bring in a suitcase full of Legos for Sheeran to play and build with to help keep him on task and motivated to create magic!

How often do we see this in our classrooms? So often we try and snuff out these “off task” behaviors that could be ultimately holding back our students’ creativity and greatness. Now, I’m not saying we need to all have suitcases of Legos ready to go for kids to build with while we are teaching the greatest common factor in math, but as educators we should be trying to figure out what these students’ “Legos” are to help them create the magic in your classroom.

We want our students to be engaged and passionate about their learning, so in turn we need to help them find the reason and passion to WANT to be at school everyday. So many teachers feel confined to the strict curriculum that has been handed to them, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and engaging everyday.  As Hope and Wade King said in their book, The Wild Card, “you have to teach standards; that’s a given. But standards don’t determine how you deliver the content—it’s the delivery method that drives the engagement.”

Find that spark that will keep all students engaged throughout the whole day. Find those “Legos” to help keep them on task and make magic everyday!

Banning Fidget Spinners in the Classroom? Why????

The Fidget Spinner craze that is blowing up all over the United States has had me intrigued.  It is even a huge at my small little Sandston Elementary School in Sandston, Virginia.  Some teachers are banning fidget spinners from their classrooms because they are causing distractions, some teachers are allowing a select few students to use them at certain times, and other teachers are using them as incentives that students can buy with tickets they earn in the classroom. In my small PreK through 5th grade school of 220 students, we’re hitting all over the spectrum on the “are they appropriate” debate….


Putting myself on one side of the debate, I lean more toward them being allowed in class based on ground rules we would lay out together as a class, but if I had a class who couldn’t handle the rules we lay out then yes, I probably would nix them from the classroom. It would pain me to do this though!

As educators, in my opinion, the most important thing we can do is build strong lasting relationships with our students. This “Fidget Spinner Fad” (yes, it is a fad…) will eventually die off. We are nearing our last few weeks with our students before summer, so why not jump on board with this fad to end the school year and strengthen that bond. I know I would be that teacher moving throughout the room, borrowing different students’ spinners for a few minutes to spin, and not skipping a beat teaching. 10 years from now, your students will not remember the ins and outs of everything you specifically taught them, but they WILL remember how awesome it was that their teacher taught with a fidget spinner at the height of its fad back in 2017!

The best thing about these fads popping up is that there are TONS of amazing educators out there who are already using these fidgets spinners to their advantage in the classroom! Embracing the fad to hook those students back into what you are trying to accomplish hits at the very core of what makes good educators great.

At my own school I was hoping this would take off on its own, and just last week, I walked down the hallway to find poems 5th graders had written hung up in the hallway, and BAM… 2 boys who usually struggle with writing and being involved paired up to write a clever poem. Later in the day, I had a 4th grader come up to me proudly showing me a fidget spinner he designed and made himself all out of those plastic beads that you iron together! 

After these two brief interactions, I did some quick searching and found some great ways that could be used to integrate and bring authentic learning to the classroom. As I said before, there are still many variables a teacher may need to wade through before taking the full plunge into spinners in the classroom, but this is the “hotness” that is out there with our students today. The all out banning of these spinners may be the way one teacher needs to go, but being able to embrace what the students are excited about and bringing it to the classroom is the #1 way to engage the students fully into their learning and have them asking for more!

Check out these few examples of ways you could use spinners in your classroom. Share your thoughts on the “Great Fidget Spinner Debate” below in the comments!

Are you into 3D printing?  How about Downloading Unique Printable Guides to design your old fidget spinners in the classroom!

How about trying out the Fidget Spinner STEM Challenge with your students?

How about having your students Build their own LEGO Fidget Spinner?  You can even turn it into a PBL Fidget Spinner Lesson after they have built them!

Still looking for more? Check out the over 75 different Fidget Spinner Lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Happy Spinning!



Word Problem Haikus

April is #NationalPoetryMonth, so why not try a fun lesson with poetry AND math?! Try integrating Haikus into your Math Unit! Many times I see students struggling to come up with an idea for a poem, such as a haiku. Writing Haikus has just taken on a whole new purpose with trying to write word problems in the form of a Haiku. The best part about it–they don’t necessarily have to be solved. It’s just another way to get students thinking outside the box in writing.

Have your students tweet out their best and tag #wordproblemhaiku!

Here are a couple I came across on Twitter that were intriguing:

My dog’s bandana
Folded into a triangle
What’s the area?

Bought a nice fishtank
We could find the volume, or
Fill it with a hose.

Two trains traveling
One east, one west; different speeds
When will they collide?

Sides of three and four,
what is your perimeter**?
I sure hope you’re right.
**It was originally hypotenuse, but I changed it for my elementary kiddos

Black History Month/Famous Americans Lesson Idea

Engaging students in their learning and having them take ownership of the content is something I’m always looking for in the classroom. When I was a classroom teacher making movies using the French Art Form of Tableau about Famous Americans was a classroom favorite of my students. The students had to act out their own scene of an important event that happened in a Famous American’s life using these Tableaus. As you can see, the students really got into it!

In other years, I modified the Tableau lesson a little and had the students create their own “Mini-Movies”. We even took it a step further, and the students brought in props and costumes to spice up their movies!

For both projects, the students were completely on their own for creating these movies. Even though these specific projects were centered around Rosa Parks, the premise would easily work for any Famous American that they may be researching.  Here are the basic steps each student group had to follow:

1. Research The Famous American
2. Come up with an important scene from their life to act out
3. Come up with their characters
4. Come up with the scripts
5. Practice, Practice, Practice.

The best part about making these movies–THE BLOOPERS! The students loved watching this movie because it is obviously hilarious, but it also gave the students a sense that it is okay to make mistakes in their learning. We roll through the mistakes and learn from them…. and they’re hilarious. “Rosa Parks on a School Bus?????” Haha!

Find your Back to School Motivation

CRO_money_SS_retailer_reward_Target_logo_11-13Back to School is right around the corner! This is the time when educators really start hearing and seeing amazing motivational speeches to get them pumped for the upcoming year. One of my favorite educational based motivational speeches comes from Rita Pierson titled Every Kid Needs a Champion. If you haven’t seen this one, I highly suggest watching it. You will be moved to tears and ready to jump into the classroom and make a difference! Check out the following link to watch more great Educational TED Talks.

This is the best thing about motivational speeches – They can come from anywhere! That being said, you still probably wouldn’t think of the retail store Target when it comes to motivational speeches. In steps an employee named Scott. Just prior to Target’s 2014 Black Friday Opening this guy jumps up on a checkout line and delivers an epic 55 second speech right before turning to the doors yelling, “Let them in!” Check it out:

Now this speech was a little silly for a retail store opening, but what’s really awesome to me is that he had all of those other employees’ attention. That last push to get them pumped for what was about to happen is inspiring. I know if I was working that night at Target I would be fired up to work as a team and as a family to take on the opening that was about to come.

I find myself looking for more of this in education. We as educators should feel a sense of duty to want to motivate our students like this. More often than not, we simply expect our students to fall in line and just do the task laid before them, and then wonder, “Why are they so tired and bored?” We need to find ways to engage and inspire our students to take ownership of their learning. Just as Scott showed us, we all need a little motivating to complete the upcoming task at hand. We need to lead our students with a sense of contagious optimism and encourage a meaningful, common vision. This will lead to students becoming accountable for their learning and see it as a lifelong journey and not something to simply keep them busy. It will lead to them wanting to eagerly complete assignments. Students must be given the opportunity to maximize their potential, and they should be inspired to do so. We need to bring the excitement, the enthusiasm, and the fun back to the classroom, and if it takes a little “Checkout Stand Motivation,” I am all about it! What will your “This.Is.Target!” moment be to start the year??

How Will You End Your Year

Learning+word+splashYears ago, when I taught 3rd grade, I was never fully satisfied with the various ways I ended my school year. Too many times, after an amazing year of incredible experiences and powerful relationships, it just seemed…anti-climactic. I hated it. It bothered me. The bell rang, they walked out, and I felt that I missed an opportunity to do something with real impact.

My last years in the classroom I knew something had to change. We did all kinds of projects the last weeks of school, and one of my favorites was a Claymation project. I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into, but I jumped in the deep end, the kids stepped up, took ownership, and they really came up with some amazing final products. Here are couple examples from two groups if you’re interested…




I didn’t fully know the impact this made until recently when a couple former students randomly reach out to me and told me they loved making these projects and missed being in my class. It was truly a rewarding moment. I was simply coming up with some engaging lessons that at least I, myself, would have fun with, and it hit home with some students a lot deeper than I expected.

I want your last moments with your students to be powerful, too! As the year is coming to a close it is important that we continue to deliver those meaningful and engaging lessons. I know that sounds cliché but every moment we have with our students is a chance to make an impact on their learning. So, how will you end your school year in a way that is worthy of the significance of these last moments?

My Principal is Following Me on Twitter??

sorry-marketers-you-re-doing-twitter-wrong-report-692a5ff817Last year, while finishing up my Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Richmond, one of my assignments was to create a Twitter account (more than complete before taking the class) and start building our own Personal Learning Network, or PLN which I love to expand and grow everyday! I missed the class when everyone set up their Twitter accounts because I was presenting at the FETC Conference, but it was really fun participating in class through Twitter at the airport helping show the power of Twitter. One of my classmates, Sara Luckert, posted a funny article about 17 things you can do while actively monitoring a standardized test, and she also mentioned that she is now being followed by her principal, Dr. Brian Fellows, on Twitter. Adding to that, she said she wants to make sure she maintains a level of professionalism. This really got me thinking. Other than my two years as an ITRT, I’ve never had an immediate supervisor following me on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media platform. Do you think people would act differently through social media if they had their administrators following them? Out in the “real world” I have seen stories of people being fired for things they have posted.  Here is just one article on 17 people who were fired for ways they used Facebook. (Four of the 17 are teachers!)

The way I see it going down the road, I don’t see many of my near future bosses following me.  (Update: My principal is following me this year, and I love it!) I don’t say this as a knock on whomever they may be, but rather these people, more than likely, being a generation of people who aren’t as connected on social media. I also say this hoping social-media4that I am wrong! I welcome them to follow me because I see it as a way to let myself shine in other ways than being observed in the building. My own county’s @HenricoSchools Twitter account is following me as well as my school’s @SandstonElem account that I run. As intimidating as this could be, I really feel this is powerful knowing my own school system is interested in the following the information I am sharing. Knowing the power of it makes me want to lead the way and entice more of my teachers and instructional leaders to become involved in social media in professional ways. Many of my teachers follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and I follow them. I don’t think they are looking at it as me “watching” them, but rather as a way to build our relationship as coworkers. In doing so, I know I am taking the opportunity to show them how I can hold myself to high standards on these platforms in a personal and professional way.

Social-Media3Like it or not, as educators, I think we have to hold ourselves to a little bit of a higher standards than others in public. We’ve all had those interactions with students out in public. As an elementary educator I feel like a rock star seeing kids freak out or get real nervous seeing me in public which is totally different in the way they way they act in the school building! Putting ourselves out there in public on sites like Twitter opens us up to a broader market. It is like being out in public but on a grander scale. I use my same Twitter account (@trockr11) professionally and in my personal life, and I find myself censoring myself on certain topics. As educators, in my opinion, we’re always leading, teaching, and modeling. I’ve always viewed being on any social media as a perfect opportunity to model digital citizenship. As I noted before, I want more of my colleagues to join social media platforms – not only to better themselves, but also to help motivate and engage our students. Although I may not have my elementary students following me, I do have many former students in middle and high school who follow me, and I know the professionalism I hold to whomever sees my posts carries a lot of weight in the way people perceive me as an educator and education in general.

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