Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 Ways to Win Over Parents

Hey Friends!

Do you ever feel hassled by your students' parents? Do you get a ton of emails from them? Do they seem to question everything? Today, I have some ideas to share on how to win over parents so they feel confident in you and trust you as their child's teacher.

Great ideas to improve parent teacher communication. You can use these tips to help your students be successful and make teaching more enjoyable this year.

I am a mentor teacher at my school and lately I have overheard a few teachers asking what to do about parents who hassle them. Now we know there might be that *one* parent who might just be a true hassle and give you a run for your money.... that's not who this post is about. :)

First, let's think of this for a parents point of view. As a mom of a 2nd grader, I get it...I need to feel complete trust in the person who influences and teaches my child for 7 hours a day.  I need to believe that my daughter is taken care of academically, emotionally, and socially. To be the best parent, I need to know what is expected of me to best help my child be successful.

Now from a teachers point of view, there are so many demands as an educator. I feel like most days I hardly can find a moment to use the restroom. I know to be the best teacher to my students I NEED support and respect from parents who are working with a common goal in mind.

I feel pretty comfortable saying my student's parents  trust me because they rarely question me or give me a hard time, they are on my team! #winwin They offer to help me or more importantly, when I do have to give them bad news about their child, they know my motives are pure and I am offering feedback as a way to support their child.

So here are "5 Ways to Be" to win over the parents of your students.

Be Intentional
So often as teachers we share ideas within our teaching team, or are asked to implement something new from our school district. As a teacher I am always thinking how will this help my students to be successful? What does my intuition tell me? What steps will I need to take to implement this new program? What else can I add? I never want to just do something because I was asked to do it at the expense of my students' learning. I am intentional and think of the long term results. You can read about an intentional decision I made regarding a word wall in my classroom {HERE}.

Be Positive
I regularly send home notes, make positive phone calls or send emails about my students. I am positive and encouraging with my students. I blogged about Star Students; a positive classroom management tip on my blog {HERE}. Since my kids are constantly praised or hearing praise for academic success', appropriate work habits, or effort they go home and share a positive attitude about school.

Be Visible and Approachable 
At my last school I used to walk my students out to the gate everyday, wave, smile, say hello to siblings, pet a dog, whatever. Parents liked to see me as a person, to get to know me at a more personal level. Even seeing me interacting with my students put their minds at ease. I cannot do this at my new school due to our dismissal procedures so I have tried to find other ways: approaching parents at assemblies, going out of my way to say hello when I see them on campus, finding ways for them to be part of our learning community on special celebration days like the 100th Day of School.

Be Clear and Consistent
I communicate several ways with parents but one form of communication they can consistently count on is a weekly newsletter that I send home with my students on Monday. In the newsletter, I clearly state our learning objectives and reminders for the week ahead. I offer ideas for ways they can further help their child succeed. Another way I am consistent is with homework.  I know parents and kids are busy after school. I limit the amount of homework I send home and always send it home on Monday to be returned on Friday. If I make any changes to our normal routine, I am sure to send a note home or a quick email explaining it to them. I send home graded assessments only on Fridays, I want them to know how their child is doing before progress reports or report cards. Just like I set routines and procedures in my classroom with my students, I do the same with their parents so they know what to expect.


Great ideas to improve parent teacher communication. You can use these tips to help your students be successful and make teaching more enjoyable this year.

 If you are interested in checking out this EDITABLE homework folders and newsletters,                you can see more {HERE}.

Be a Good Listener 
This might be the most important thing I can do as a teacher. I intently listen to what matters to my students. I want to capitalize on their strengths and interests. I know I can make a difference if they know I believe in them and they feel like they are important. I want them to know their thoughts, interests, and beliefs are valued in our community. I elicit parents for information about their child at the beginning of the year through a letter asking parents to tell me about their child.

Great ideas to improve parent teacher communication. You can use these tips to help your students be successful and make teaching more enjoyable this year.
You can access this editable resource {HERE}

I listen to parents when they come to me about their child. I really listen, let them get it out, before offering advice or giving details of a school situation. I think this is easier to understand now that I am a parent. My child is my everything, I will always go to bat for my child. I assume most parents feel that way. If I keep that in mind I am more able to see their supportive motive rather than feel attacked at their questioning.

Thanks for reading today, I hope at least one of these ideas were helpful to you! I'd love for you to share in the comments what you do to build better relationships with your students' parents. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Growth Mindset Ideas & Freebies

Hello Friends!

Have you studied the Mindset work of Carol Dweck? Through years of research she has identified two types of mindsets which she calls; growth and fixed.

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.

When students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. Even at such a young age, it is essential for us to teach our students that their intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning.

If you are just hearing about Growth Mindset or beginning your journey to learn more, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to a brief video of Dweck sharing her research.


Friends this is huge, her work articulates what I have always believed! For 20 years I have believed in my students. Every.Single.One. I couldn't be happier that so many schools are now empowering students with this research to foster a growth mindset with our students. :) 

This year I have been even more intentional in my teaching from the first day of school. I have created and found some engaging resources to help instill a growth mindset in my students. Grab a drink, read on for ideas, and grab a few FREE resources for your class. :)

I put together a list of book and video resources to keep at my fingertips that are perfect to share with my students.

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.


There are sooooo many great read alouds that are perfect to facilitate discussions of  perseverance, growth vs fixed mindset, and problem solving. Here are some of my favorites:

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? These are great read alouds that are perfect to facilitate discussions of  perseverance, growth vs fixed mindset, and problem solving.

My favorite videos for my first graders are these ClassDojo 5 (short episodes). In this series on Growth Mindset, two monsters named Mojo and Katie explore the different aspects of growth mindset, perfect for K-2 students. 

The video topics include:
Your Brain is like a Muscle 
The Magic of Mistakes
The Incredible Power of Yet
The Mysterious World of Neurons
Mojo Puts it All Together



You can link to the 5 episodes and discussion guides from here

Another good video Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron: Challenges Grow Your Brain is a short video that introduces kids to the powerful idea that taking on challenges can grow and strengthen our brains, and that we have the power to make our brains stronger every day.



I just knew we needed a visual reminder to "grow our brain" so I made this poster, you can grab this FREEBIE at the end of the post!

Free Growth Mindset Resources Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?

#truestory During a reading assessment I noticed one of my sweet boys was reading a book at a frustration level, I asked him if he wanted to discontinue the assessment and read a better fit book, he instantly replied, "No I am going to grow my brain Mrs. Winter!"

Now that my kids have a basic understanding what growth mindset is we have set goals for our self and hung them in the hallway.

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.

Soon we will check in on our goals and see what action steps are needed to make our goals attainable. My students will need to be reminded how their effort and belief in themselves will make them success in meeting any goals they set. Here is a sample of what I have planned, I know they will love it!

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.


I know in order for my students to understand that their intelligence is not limited and believe in themselves I must create an environment where students are reminded daily. I created these bookmarks to keep at school and send home. Be sure to grab these color and black and white bookmarks for your kids at the end of this post!

Free Growth Mindset Resources Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?
I have many more lessons planned for this year, here are a few resources I created that you might be interested in to use with your students!

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.

If you are interested in seeing more of my Growth Mindset Resources book and video links you can check them out by clicking the picture below.

Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Here are some engaging activities for elementary kids. These lessons are designed as a way to foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students. Also Included are bulletin board resources to display student work.

If you'd like to grab the FREEBIES, from the post, click the picture to download!

Free Growth Mindset Resources Do your students have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?

I hope these resources offer a way to help foster a Growth Mindset culture in your classroom with your students.  I'd love to hear in the comments any other resources you have found to help your students be successful in achieving their goals!

Happy teaching!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Student Written Class Plays!

Hello Friends!

I am excited! I had an idea and it came to fruition better than I imagined! Today I want to share with you how I made a big shift with my end of  the year class plays.

FREE! Teach your 1st 2nd or 3rd grade students how to write their own short reader's theater play scripts! All templates included to ensure that your class play will be fun and successful!




This year instead of giving my students a part in the play I picked out, have them memorize the lines, and act the way I interpret the character should act, my first graders wrote their own plays.  If you like the idea you are welcome to download the FREE printables or pin the ideas for next year to use in your classroom.

For years now, I have used Kristin (A Teeny Tiny Teacher)'s Partner Plays during Daily 5 centers. My kids love them, they honestly CHEER when I bring a new season out!! They love the characters and themes, I LOVE that they are engaged, loving reading, and practicing their fluency. If you don't know what I am talking about check them out {HERE}.

Earlier this year I was inspired to start shifting the way I teach when my principal invited me to a screening of Most Likely to Succeed . If you have not yet seen or heard of the documentary, in short, it is a film about a school in California, High Tech High that has shifted the way they teach from lecture type classes to integrated project based application. The kids at the school are engaged and hungry to learn and produce.


Since the screening while planning, I have been thinking, is this what my kids need or is this how I have always done it?

So then one dayan idea hit me, I could teach my 1st graders how to write their own partner plays and perform them as an end of year celebration for their parents. I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous to give up control. #controlfreak

It ended up better than I imagined. :) My kids learned so much. They had to make decisions, collaborate with their partner on ideas, make compromises when they didn't agree, and have the stamina to finish the project. I coached them every step of the way so they would be successful. I did a lot of role playing of things that could happen as they were working with their partner. In total, it took about 1 month from the beginning of choosing partners to performing (we worked about 15-20 minutes a day).



The Process

First, I had my students write a short list of who they would like to work with. Of course, I had the final say but tried to pair them up with someone on their list.




Next, I modeled explicitly how to brainstorm and plan a title, characters, setting, problem, and  a solution for a script. This took many days.


FREE! Teach your 1st 2nd or 3rd grade students how to write their own short reader's theater play scripts! All templates included to ensure that your class play will be fun and successful!



Then, we needed to know traits for our characters before writing the dialogue. Would their character be shy, outgoing, kind, funny?

Last, my students took many days of working together to write their actual scripts.


Once we had our scripts written, I conferenced with each group for a few minutes to help them make any necessary changes. Then they started rehearsing their lines to memorize.

Originally, I had thought my students would bring props or make paper props at school but I decided to keep it simple. Their plays were so good, I didn't want the props to take away from the hard work they had done. I did have them make a sign their play titles to hang on our backdrop for the performance.

I know it is close to the end of the school year for most of us. Maybe you want to try this idea with your students and perform for a buddy class? Maybe you just want to use this idea to fill the last week of school and have your students perform for each other? Maybe you are just going to pin them for next year?

If you want, you can download the printables for FREE by clicking the image!

FREE! Teach your 1st 2nd or 3rd grade students how to write their own short reader's theater play scripts! All templates included to ensure that your class play will be fun and successful!

Thanks for stopping by and reading, I hope you have a fabulous end to your school year!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spring Into Reading Giveaway!

Hello Friends!

If you are new here, I am Christina from Mrs. Winter's Bliss. I have been teaching 1st grade for 20 years. Being a former California girl, I now get excited for the warmer weather that spring brings! To celebrate I have teamed up with 7 other amazing bloggers to share some of our favorite spring books and FREEBIES with you! 





Along with the freebies for each book, we are also giving away a copy of each book. Make sure to read through to the end of the post to grab the freebies and a chance to WIN ALL 8 books! 



I chose to share the book Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket by Barbara Park. 





If you are like me and my 1st graders you already know what a hilarious and relatable character Junie B. is to us. This book is no exception! 


It's almost the end of the school year, and Room Nine is taking a field trip to a farm! There's lots of fun farm stuff there. Like a real actual barn. And a real actual farmer. There's even real alive animals you can pet! Only, where's the gift shop? That's what Junie B. Jones would like to know. Surely no one would want Junie B. to go home empty-handed. . . .

My freebie is a packet of text dependent comprehension questions. I use them with my small group“independent” readers who are ready to dig deeper into what they are reading. Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket 2.1 (DRA 24) reading level.


There are 2 text dependent questions for students to provide a written response for each chapter. Also included are character analysis graphic organizers. 

When I meet with my small group I have them bring their book and reading response sheet from the previous chapter they completed independently.

First, we discuss the main events of what they read and each child shares their responses to the comprehension questions assigned previously.  I give my students time to comment or question other student’s responses in the group.

Next, we preview vocabulary words in context to clarify meaning before they read independently.

I highlight the vocabulary words in the books so students can easily find them while we preview AND so students recall them as a word we discussed while reading independently. 

Last, each child reads the chapter and completes responses independently before our group meets again.

My students greatly enjoy the independence, have continued or ignited their love of reading, have become much better at writing responses to text dependent comprehension questions, and can better communicate their thinking with other students.

Of course you could use these response sheets to practice the rigorous text based written responses after reading aloud the book to your whole class, or as homework for individual students. 



You can grab this FREEBIE by clicking the picture or {here}! 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Before you hop onto see my friend, Rachel over at The Tattooed Teacher, don't forget to grab my number! Each blogger will have a number at the end of his/her post. Collect all the numbers along the way, and when you're done, add them all up and enter the total number in the Rafflecopter below!



Good luck, happy spring and hopping!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fiction VS. Nonfiction Teaching Ideas

Hello Friends!

One thing I love about the Common Core Standards is the emphasis of our students reading and writing informational texts. My heart is so happy when I see my first graders get excited when I bring new nonfiction books into our classroom! Today I have a few ideas to share that I used in my classroom this year.

When we begun our work learning about nonfiction texts I started the unit by making sure my students understood what made a text fictional and nonfictional. After modeling how I knew, students turned and talked to a partner to explain how they knew the text type. Then I added these posters to our focus wall.

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.


These videos were also perfect!

Harry Kindergarten is always a favorite.



 This video has short clips of Happy Feet 2 and March of the Penguins

The next day I planned to start teaching nonfiction text features. I asked, "What are text features?"  I looked out and saw blank stares...heard nothing but crickets....This actually excited me. I love when no one already knows what I am about to teach. :)

Prior to our mini lesson I made these 2 posters (later taped them together) with the text pictures pasted on.

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.


You can get these FREE text feature posters I used from Deana at Primary Punch {HERE}.

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

I shrunk the posters down and printed 4 to a page.  I did not prewrite the post-its on the poster, my students and I decided on the notes together as we looked for, discussed, and determined each text feature's purpose we found in our nonfiction books.

It took us 4 mini lessons to determine what these text features were and to understand how they help us while reading nonfiction texts. I hung our anchor chart in a low space accessible to my students while working in the classroom.

Now that my readers had a good foundation of identifying nonfiction books and text features, we moved on to comparing fiction to nonfiction texts. These two familiar books on butterflies were perfect to use as examples of each text type.


Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.


In first grade students must be able to explain major differences between fiction and nonfiction texts. So again, I premade the beginning of our anchor chart to compare texts. I printed and cut out these word strips on cardstock. We built the chart together in a few mini lessons having my students prove the differences in my butterfly texts. 


Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.
Get these attribute printables {HERE}

Later my students sorted the attributes on their own chart. 


Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.



I  used this printable in a center. It was perfect to have students share their thinking with a partner. :)

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

This printable made a good assessment I shared with parents at conferences.

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

If you are interested in looking closer at this pack you can see it on my TPT shop {HERE}.

Comparing Fiction and Nonfiction - Do your students need help understanding the differences between fiction vs nonfiction texts? These printables are perfect for making an anchor chart for your classroom as your students are learning to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

In addition, I have saved a ton of ideas on my Pinterest board Informational Text Ideas, come pin with me!

I would love for you to leave a comment below sharing ideas how you teach your students to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Writing Process {ideas & a freebie!)



Hello Friends!

Do you love teaching writing as much as I do? Let's talk the writing process!

Our primary students have so many stories to tell. Have your students ever walked in your door in the morning eager to tell you a story? Mine do, EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Writer's Workshop is such a great way to let them do just so.

I love hearing their stories and letting them have the chance to speak through their writing.  I love that my first graders are so eager to learn that they practically try to emulate an author mentor or my writing style. I love that we can ignite their desire to write more by calling them "authors" and giving them "special tools" to publish their revised drafts of stories they have written.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about Writer's Workshop!

Today I want to share with you specifically how I publish stories with my first graders, it is so powerful that it is something I have done for more years than I remember. :)

I launch Writer's Workshop at the beginning of the year with narrative writing. Even at the beginning of the year I start to introduce the writing process to my first graders. I hang this anchor chart up as a so we can reference the process during mini lessons.


You can find this chart for FREE in my shop {HERE}

Through modeling and direct instruction my students develop an understanding of how writers prewrite, draft, revise, and edit (self, peer, teacher) their work. However, during the first two months of school we do not usually publish our stories. It is more important in my opinion for my students to be completely independent and capable writers before I can add book publishing to our learning. Plus I always like to save some things for later in the year to motivate and reignite their love of writing.

By the second quarter, we start writing to inform with procedural writing (how to) writing. This unit is by far my students and my favorite text type. My students are eager to teach others through their writing things they have "expert" knowledge of.

By the end of the unit my students revise and edit their How To writing templates and choose their favorite piece to publish.


You can see more of this writing template {HERE}


 Now we are ready to publish! I created a WORD doc template that my students can use to type their stories. For the first published book, I have them create only the cover, title page, and materials need page in the document. They learn how to create text in a text box, change the font if desired and import a picture for their cover. We can print two copies and use one as a title page.




Once printed, I ask a parent volunteer to assemble pages in their book so they can write and illustrate their masterpiece. They are so eager to finish writing their edited text and add illustrations with special publishing tools (markers, twistables, glitter crayons etc.).


I make a big deal about them being authors, give them time to share their books and send them home with a letter to their parents. IT IS A BIG DEAL!!!

Parent letter

Later in the year when my students have more stamina, I encourage them to type their entire text with the published book template. It does take a while for them to publish these books as most of my students are still "hunting and pecking" to type their words. :) But it is sooooo worth it!

How cute is this....she googled how to help the bird ;) 

If you have never published books with your students, I want to encourage you to do so. Suddenly writing is exciting again, there is a purpose, students are reading and talking to each other about their stories, they are beaming with pride.... (and you will be the best teacher ever!!!)

If you are interested in taking a closer look at the publishing templates you can click the pictures below.




I am so glad you stopped by, I would love to hear any ideas in the comments you have on published writing or author celebrations!








Monday, January 18, 2016

Hip Hip Hooray for the 100th Day!

Hello Friends!

Do you LOVE the 100th Day? Ours is coming up this week and I am excited!

There is something wonderful about the number 100...(could it be that it marks that we are more than halfway through the school year?)....who am I kidding? I teach in a year round school! Maybe it is their smiles as they are counting, reading, and writing 100's of things!

Today I want to share with you my 100th Day of School Celebration Centers and a FREEBIE.


I created this file a few years ago and each year the 100th day has been fun and low stress. :) I LOVE to have parents involved in our learning and this day seems to be a day parents who don't regularly volunteer (could it be the word CELEBRATION?) want to be involved.

About 2 weeks before the big day I send home a letter asking for volunteers and donations.


On the 100th day, I divide my class into 5 small groups. I have a parent volunteer lead an activity and stay at their assigned center for each rotation. The centers will take about 17-20 minutes before the students will be ready to rotate to the next center. If a student finishes a center early, I have them go to their desk  to count and tally shapes in the Can you find 100? printable (that way they will not bother other groups who are still working).


Here is a closer look at the 5 centers my students rotate through, it usually takes about 2 hours. 







The direction card makes it so easy for a parent to manage and I usually just rotate around the room to assist and take pictures of these smiles!


If you are interested in these Celebration Centers with EDITABLE Parent letters you can see more in my TpT shop {HERE}


This year I added 100 Rhyming Words to have just in case of bad weather (100 Ways to Exercise) or in a word work center later this week. I made 2 versions to share with you, a copy without the word of the picture in the box so my more advanced students would have to use their critical thinking skills to figure out a word family the picture represents, and another version with the word of the picture to support students thinking.

 I made a color and black and white version of each page. Depending how you plan to use it you could copy the black and white version back to back so students could take the printable home, or place a few of the color version in a plastic sleeve to be reused by students in a center. Included in the download there is also a direction card. :)


You can grab this FREEBIE here!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you also see 100's of smiles on your 100th day!