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State Support Team, Region 16

Take Those Behavior Clip Charts Down!

Image result for clip chart for behavior

I, like most teachers, got in the trap of using a behavior clip chart. I just couldn’t understand why it didn’t work for all of my students. Why was little “Johnny” always on red and I couldn’t get through to him. Didn’t I become a teacher to “Make a difference”?

First, what is our goal of having a behavior clip chart? Is it to create the best, well behaved students in our school or is it to get our students to comply. Our behavior charts simply teach our students to comply to the rules we set up and want them to follow. Although this works in the short-term this should not be our final plan. We should be encouraging them to want to learn and be engaged in what is being taught and the activities going on in the classroom.

Second, behavior charts do not teach self-regulation in which they learn to change their behavior. In my class “Johnny” never got off red and wasn’t motivated to. He didn’t care how he acted and acted negatively to get anyone’s attention.  Why wasn’t this working? My own child came home from school crying and crying because he got put on yellow (Autism). He was so scared to go back to school it took weeks of reassuring him each day that it was ok and as long as he did his best that we were happy with him. A clip change even one time can affect students in so many different ways even if most students are fine because they stay on green.

What about some alternatives. Use daily ten minute conferencing with one child about their interests to build relationships. Don’t call out a student in front of their peers during a behavior. Yet whisper quietly or talk to the student after class asking what happened when the behavior occurred. Finally, hear what students have to say about an incident, the behavior may have been due to another occurrence that may have been preventable.

It’s so easy to fall into the path of using a clip chart, color wheel or other behavior compliance techniques because we believe it is changing behavior in our student’s, but really its only creating short-term compliance and child shaming. I encourage you to take down your clip charts and color wheels and try these other techniques. Give students more empathy, understanding and responsibility for their own actions.  Take down those clip charts!

Engaging Students with Literature Circles

If you’re looking to incorporate student choice into your next novel study, find yourself an enthusiastic media specialist. And a solid set of anchor texts.

Image result for librarian gif

First, you’re going to need to recruit your school media specialist. Last year I embarked on one of the scariest journeys as a teacher. I knew I wanted to do a unit on dystopian fiction. With the call for more student agency, and eyeing my reluctant readers, I decided to allow my students to choose their own novels for this unit. Now, this requires a strong librarian. My librarians pulled hundreds of books for my students under the dystopian genre. On day one of the unit, I marched my excited students down to the library where the media specialists hosted a Hunger Games-theme “reaping” for the books. Here’s another idea for this activity. Students had the opportunity to sample at least five dystopian novels during this event. They were then tasked with choosing a favorite for their assigned book.


The level of engagement in this activity alone was so high. My students were so excited to begin reading their books because I had empowered them with that choice.

Because my students for the most part were all reading different novels, the use of common texts that would keep us anchored throughout the study of the chosen concepts became imperative.


For this unit, I had decided that I wanted students to explore four key concepts: Literary Traditions, Thematic Development Across Texts, Thematic Analysis, and Analyzing the Dystopian World Created by the Author.


As a class, we would read a common text, and within that common text, a concept would be taught. Students would then apply the newfound knowledge to the analysis of their personal novel choice.


The next step for this unit was for me to form literature circles for the students based on their selections. The librarians provided me with a list of the students’ names and their selected book. I then sorted them into groups, which proved quite difficult because there were just too many books in my pool of selection. In an ideal world, I would refine this unit by limiting the titles from which to choose. But this requires that the library have classroom sets of multiple titles, which for most schools is not going to happen. (Most of us are thankful that we even have a library!)


I continued with the theme of student agency throughout all of the assigned tasks. Once students were placed in their groups, I instructed them to develop a reading schedule based on the number of “meetings” we would be having in our literature circles. Even though they may not be reading the same book, using simple fractions (i.e. five meetings means you need to read ? of your book before each meeting) made this process easier. They were given task cards for their assigned role inside their literature circle. We watched a video clip of a successful student-led literature circle. We established norms for the literature circle meetings. Student buy-in was high at this point because they had so much say in the process.


Now the fun could begin. In order to make this all work, I had to provide anchor texts that we could all read and discuss that would then fuel their discussions inside of their heterogeneous literature circles. While planning the unit, I decided on which concepts I wanted the students to learn. (Theme, Importance of Setting, Tone & Mood, Characteristics of the Dystopian Genre) Our first anchor text was “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury. We read it together in class and analyzed it for the importance of setting in dystopian fiction. From that point, students used the techniques and skills learned via that anchor text in their own discussions with their literature circles.


The benefit of using anchor texts is that once the text has been taught whole-class, the text can be used as a common example throughout the unit. I found myself constantly referring to the anchor texts as a way to connect concepts for students.

My dystopian unit culminated with a Socratic Seminar where all students came together to discuss their novels and the learned concepts. Image result for socratic seminar

Overall, this was easily one of the most engaging units I’ve ever facilitated as a classroom teacher. If you’re looking to increase student engagement, you’ve got to consider giving students more voice and choice in your classroom. It requires thinking outside of the box, but your students will thank you with their enthusiasm.

The Importance of Outdoor Play in the Winter

kids and snowman

    Why would play in the winter time when it’s so cold outside be ok for my small child to be out? “They’ll get sick” you say, and “It’s too cold” to add. The truth is outdoor play during the cold months can be some of the best times for your child to get developmentally appropriate play. For instance, it can prevent illness, “yes” I said, ”PREVENT ILLNESS”. Children are more likely to get sick in the winter months by being indoors where bacteria can spread in the warm air. What else can play do in the winter months you ask?

    Play provides exercise, but it provides additional exercise because their bodies have to work harder with the cooler temperatures. Children need 60 minutes each day of exercise to help keep them healthy. They learn new problem solving skills by learning to walk, run and climb on new and different kinds of surfaces that may take a new level of safety and strength. Along with problem solving skills are new materials to work with including snow, ice and wet sticks and leaves to build forts, snowmen and their imaginations have no limits. Don’t you love to get out with your kids and build snowmen, roll around and make snow angels, build snow forts and drag each other up and down a hill a million times to feel the thrill of riding a snow sled, I do! 

     Finally, a good dose of Vitamin D from the warm sun helps to regulate mood, regulate energy levels and improve memory. I know feeling that sun on my face on a cool winter day with my kids laughter playing in the snow are precious memories and relationships we create with them, allowing them to use play to build life skills through play in the winter.

Picture of the Day: An Inferring Strategy That Deepens Reading Comprehension for the K-5 Classroom

After mastering the foundational skills (phonological awareness, phonics, oral language) that allow students to access print, students will need an additional skill to deepen their comprehension. Progress in reading comprehension depends on inference making, or the ability to use background knowledge along with evidence in the text to come to a conclusion. However, inferring is so hard for students because it is not concrete. The Picture of the Day strategy is easy to implement and provides practice with your scaffolding each day making inferences. Research findings (Reed & Lynn, 2016) indicate that with adequate support, all students, including those with disabilities and those at significant risk for academic failure, can successfully learn to make inferences and improve their reading comprehension.

Picture of the Day

What do you observe or see in this picture? What details do you see? Take a closer look, now what do you see?

These are questions you will ask your students when introducing the Picture of the Day Strategy. You will first ask students to look at the picture and only share things they can see. When starting this activity, the teacher can record students’ responses on chart paper like the one below. As students learn the strategy and when developmentally appropriate, students can write on their own paper or in a Picture of the Day journal.

Based on what you see and your knowledge, what do you think is happening or has happened? What do you infer?

I observe…

I infer…

I see cream that is melted.

I see ice cream that is on concrete.

I see a wet rock.

I see shiny leaves.




I infer that it is a hot day because the ice cream is melted.

I infer that is raining because the rock is wet.

I infer that someone slipped and dropped their cone because it is rainy.

Picture of the Day 2

Begin with simple images and move to more detailed images. You can Google images ahead of time or register to receive a picture of the day from a number of sources. However, sometimes these images won’t work because they aren’t appropriate for elementary students. Below is a compiled list.

NASA Picture of the Day

National Geographic Picture of the Day

Kodak Picture of the Day

FWA Photo of the Day

NY TIMES Picture of the Day (MS & HS STUDENTS)

Zuma Picture of the Day

Earth Science Picture of the Day

Optics Picture of the Day

Radiology Picture of the Day

Historical Picture of the Day


Have students record text evidence that supports their inference. Always make sure students are using the word because to ensure they are using evidence. Prompting then when necessary, I think…because… I can tell….because…. When I read… I figured out… Lastly, pair with a children’s book that lends itself to teaching inferences. Before you teach the lesson, pre-plan some stopping points for students to make inferences, they could turn and talk or journal these. This will give students a time to apply their knowledge from the Picture of the Day strategy to a text-rich story. Before you know it, you’ll have inferring masters in your class!

Interested in watching a simulation of this lesson? Contact, Ally Trew to schedule a Reading Mini-Lesson PD in your school.

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