Make Today Matter Digital Gratitude and Growth Mindset Journal

Help Your Students Find Positivity in Each Day

I had a rough week last week. After six weeks of being quarantined, I had a severe case of BLAH.

What I realized was this:

  1. I wasn’t taking care of myself and my mindset. I needed a positivity boost.
  2. If I’m struggling with this, so many others, including my students, must be also.

What I did for myself was to take a day to rest and reset my mind. I exercised, I talked to friends (on the phone), I read, I painted my nails, all the things.

But the next day I honestly didn’t feel any better. On the second day, I opened my daily mindset journal, my Make Today Matter journal that I’d been keeping each day at school for myself and with my students, and I wrote. I wrote about what I’m grateful for, my goals for the day, and my successes. And just like it had made such a big difference in our positivity in the classroom, it made a big difference for me here at home too!

I’ve added it to my Distance Learning Google Classroom for my students now also. Because like I said in realization #2 above, if I’m feeling this way, I’m sure my students and everyone else are also. Because if ten minutes could make such a big difference for my mindset, I’m sure it will do the same for my students.

Maybe it could also do the same for your students. We could all use a little extra sense of joy and sunshine in our day! Grab your copy here!

Test Prep Room Transformation

Can You Defeat the Puzzle Master?

This room transformation was easy, cheap, rigorous, and highly engaging! I centered the theme around growth mindset and mindulness strategies that, when used together, are the puzzle pieces to success. We’ve focused on these concepts all year long in the classroom, so it made perfect sense to “put the pieces together” for test prep. The mindset concepts I used are grit, dedication, perseverance, effort, mindfulness, strategy, positivity, attitude, commitment, confidence, critical thinking, and growth mindset. I’ve added pictures of the puzzle pieces I made and hung on the walls in my classroom below.

These were pretty big, so they pretty much cover all of the free wall space in my classroom, which meant that I didn’t need to do any extra decorations. To me, the minimal decorations were also the right choice because I wanted my focus to remain on the work and being able to use these concepts and strategies for state testing.

I also hung some multi-colored dollar store table cloths on the ceiling to add some “pretty” to the room.

For the work, I needed mixed review of everything we’ve done throughout this year. I used the Reading Skills puzzle centers pictured below from TPT. These are just the right amount of challenging and confidence building for my 4th graders! My students also really enjoyed using them. (You could also use any other task cards or test questions for your subject.). These centers come with answer keys that could be used for self-checking, but I wanted my students to have to correct their thinking and try again, so I created Google Forms Quizzes (that showed a score and if the question was right/wrong, but not the correct answer). My students worked in pairs and had to get an 80% or higher to show mastery and move on to the next step. There were 9-10 pairs working on separate skills during the class time so the Google Forms were extremely helpful for keeping the students accountable (I get grades and know they did the work necessary for the group) and moving at their own pace because they didn’t have to wait on me to check their work.

Once the pair had shown mastery they got one of the following “treat puzzles” to put together (shown in the pics below). If the students were able to put it together completely they got the candy or treat that was referenced in the pun/riddle on the treat puzzle. I made these out of poster board that I got in the school section at Walmart for about $3.00 for a set of five posters. I made the same number of treat puzzles as the reading skills puzzles that I used, so the students got a different treat each time they mastered a skill. I did this for a little extra motivation, but it certainly isn’t mandatory.

In my two hour class, with a mini-lesson focused on each of our puzzle piece mindset and strategy concepts, my students were able to complete two to three reading puzzles per class.

To complete the transformation and theme, I gave each of my students these blank puzzles that I ordered from Amazon to design and keep. I could have had my students focus on a design that used our mindset concepts and success as the theme of their picture, but for destressing after testing (we did this part during the afternoon after state testing in the morning), I allowed my students full creative rights for their puzzles.  You can get the puzzles from the link here.

I had actually worried that it wouldn’t be as exciting to them as I hoped, but they absolutely loved these puzzles.

Flight School: A Reading Research-Based STEAM Lesson and Digital Task Journal

Flight School STEAM

I’m super excited to share this lesson!  I love STEAM projects and shared my digital task journal to make STEAM more reading and research-based so that it fits better into the Reading and Language Arts classroom in an earlier post.  This is the lesson that I used to first implement this idea and it worked SO WELL!   This lesson includes a Growth Mindset read aloud and discussion, task journal prompts that require the students to be text dependent, reflective, and to apply the information they learn from their research, and to use that information to analyze their own success or lack of success throughout the STEAM process.  This is totally higher level thinking!  I was able to find texts that ALL of my students could read (in a 4th grade classroom with reading levels ranging between two grade levels) and I was even able to find research passages that still allowed me to assess comprehension skills we were working on and incorporate the STEAM project into my reading groups to continue working on close reading skills.  Suggestions and links for research texts are included in the lesson.  This is what reading SHOULD BE!  I’ll be working on more of these lessons to continue incorporating STEAM into the reading classroom and can’t wait to share them!

To get my Flight School reading STEAM lesson and task journal, click here.

thanks for reading!

 

Reading Research-Based STEAM

How do you get students to understand the importance of comprehension?  The thing is, I push my classes all year to think on a higher level, to dig deeper into the text, to read every word for its meaning and purpose in the text, and to push themselves to give 100%, and then give a little more.  I teach my classes about the importance of learning to read; more importantly that we read to learn.  I want my students to understand that what we do has a purpose.  In our reading class we aren’t just reading passages to answer questions.  We are answering questions about the passage as a means of becoming more text dependent, leading to a higher level of understanding while we read.  I want my students to understand that their future as a successful adult, in whatever career they choose, depends on the ability to comprehend and analyze, whether it’s text or media.  Along with that, I want my students to be able to work successfully with a team, to think creatively, to learn how to improve upon mistakes,  and to be reflective.  We teachers do so much!  What we do in our classroom everyday is the key.  For that reason, the learning tasks we assign to our students everyday matters!

At the beginning of this school year my administrator sent out a question about how we could incorporate more STEAM into the classroom, along with how we can meet the needs of our TAG students.  Many of us reading teachers had a hard time finding ideas on the web that incorporated our reading instructional needs with STEAM activities.  This was especially true for those of us in upper elementary grades.  Around December it hit me, STEAM projects could and should be research-based.  My students read informational text almost every day.  Why not assign that text for a specific purpose?!  My idea was to mix Maker Space, STEAM, and Project-Based learning ideas with the reading that my students do on a daily basis for their skill practice assignments.  It was May before I finally had what I wanted.

My students loved this!  It’s simple and works with ANY STEAM project.  You just assign the task journal through your Google Classroom, or print it and make some minor adjustments to how your students complete the journal (the instructions are for digital completion).  Next you assign the research reading and set a time frame for your students to complete.  Then introduce your STEAM project challenge and the rest of the task journal and watch your students’ learning, critical analysis, problem solving skills and engagement soar.  To get a copy click here.