Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Teachers: Stop Grouping your Students According to Sex

"We'll play this game boys vs. girls."
"All the boys can read on the floor today, girls at your desks."
"Girls line up, boys line up."

How often do we hear these phrases in a classroom on an average day? Pretty often, in my experience. It's incredibly common to separate kids by their sex. It makes grouping them simple, and it's something most people don't think twice about.

As an elementary school teacher, I have made the conscious choice to stop categorizing my class between boys and girls. I have always been an LGBTQ ally, and am passionate about advocating for those that belong to that group. However, it wasn't until I officially began my teaching career that I realized how I could unknowingly contribute to the pain and hurt that LGBTQ kids might experience.

It was the summer before I officially became a classroom teacher, and I was going to teach summer school to upcoming 3rd graders. I could not have been more excited to start my journey. On the very first morning of summer school, the kids came in and ate breakfast in the classroom. After calling roll and introducing everyone, one student came in late. It was time to line up for specials, and without thinking, I said, "If you are a girl, line up." The new student (I'll call them Taylor) lined up with the girls. This student did not present as a girl, and I had just barely met them. Taylor was wearing camo shorts, a black t-shirt, and sported a short haircut. Again, without thinking, I said, "Taylor, why did you line up with the girls?" thinking Taylor was a boy. Taylor looked at me and said, "Because I am a girl!" My stomach dropped to my feet. I couldn't believe I had been so thoughtless, and then on top of that, called them out in front of other kids about it. I knew better, and yet I did not act better.
After that day, I was careful not to divide our class based on sex, and Taylor had a great summer. I didn't know Taylor very well before, but after asking some teachers about them, I heard that before Taylor got their cool, short haircut, they were a different kid- shy, withdrawn, glum. That haircut changed that kid's world and their entire demeanor. It was clearly an important change for Taylor.
I don't know Taylor now, or who they grew up to be, but I hope that my thoughtless mistake didn't cause too much hurt or embarrassment for them.

Here is something I know to be true: many trans adults recall that the first time they felt dysphoric about their gender was in elementary school when a teacher required them to stand or be grouped with their assigned gender. They recall that it was the first time they felt out of place or uncomfortable with that classification.

So here is my plea to teachers: stop dividing your students by sex. Simply make a conscious effort to stop. There are lots of other ways to make teams or groups quickly: color of t-shirt, length of hair, birthday month, type of shoe, number of siblings, favorite color, etc.

Even if there are no students who "appear" to have gender identity issues, that doesn't mean they aren't there. If you can save a student from a little bit of heartache, why wouldn't you want to? Kids struggling with gender identity or feeling out of place have enough things to worry about. Let's let them cross this off their list of troubles.

Make the shift. Decide to change. Be inclusive to all students. Every teacher I know has a desire to love and accept all different kinds of kids. This is part of it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Worst Blogger Ever

Wow! Haven't blogged since September of last year! Ooooops! Let's just say I've been busy!
Last year was awesome. I LOVED departmentalizing, and we had an awesome group of kids.

I continued to use Math Workshop last year with great success. I paired it with my own version of Spiral Math Homework and was so pleased with how much my kids learned. I even had the opportunity to share the way I do Math Workshop with other teachers by teaching a class on our district's in service day. It was an amazing and affirming experience for sure.

I am two days into the new school year and boy, am I TIRED! My summer was so wonderful and relaxing that I think my body forgot what it was like to work long hours at full speed. It's been a great two days. I only had 17 kids (don't throw things!) show up so I have absolutely nothing to complain about! :) This is a great group of kids and I am just SO psyched to see what we can accomplish with such small class sizes.

This year, we have changed up the way we are departmentalized, so I will be teaching math, science, and half of writing (2 of the 4 modes). I'll go back and forth between teaching science and writing units, and teach math every day. I am so SO sad to not be teaching social studies. I love 5th grade social studies- especially the Revolution. My kids get so into it and it's just so much fun to teach. I am excited to start our new science curriculum, though! Our district has adopted Discovery this year, which is a completely online resource. I had the opportunity to teach from it at the end of last year, and I can't wait to get the kids on laptops and interacting with all that is available to them.

Being a third year teacher is the best thing ever. This is the first year that I did not feel anxious on Meet the Teacher night OR the first day of school. I knew what to expect and only felt excited! It's a good thing I feel so on top of everything, because I've also just started my first semester of grad school and am on my way to getting my master's in School Administration. Eek! It will be interesting figuring out how to balance everything, to say the least. Anyway, this is the first year that I have even had time to THINK about decorating my door for Meet the Teacher. Usually, I am running around like a crazy person right up until the first kid shows up. I wish I had more pictures to fill this blog entry with, but I'll just leave you with this one!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Year, New Things!

I am officially a month into my second full year of teaching! It has been so much fun already.

This year instead of being a self contained 5th grade classroom, we have been departmentalized. I now teach math, science, and social studies to 2 groups of kids each day. I teach math every day, then swap science and social studies units. My partner teacher teaches reading and writing. As much as I love to read (reading chapter books aloud to my class was one of my favorite things to do), I couldn't be happier with the subjects I am teaching.

I also have to say, being a second year teacher is light years better than being a first year teacher! I am loving being able to anticipate misconceptions and confusion when it comes to specific math topics and lessons. It makes my whole day run more smoothly. You also can't beat prepping 2 subjects (plus an interactive read aloud) per day instead of 5-6! Somehow I still find things to keep me busy until dinner time... Oops! But basically, I'm having an amazing year so far.

I kept a lot of things the same in my classroom from last year. However, I did make some adjustments and updates with the new class format.

Last year, I used tickets as a positive behavior reinforcement, and had ticket store on Fridays. That worked great for my class. This year, though, with 50 students to motivate, I didn't think it would work so well.
Enter, my Bravo! Board!

The black magnetic boards are from Dollar General! They are mini wipe-off boards. I just used command strips to attach them to my bulletin board fabric. So far, so good!

I love this thing. I've been waiting to share it until it really got some good use and I could vouch for it's effectiveness, and after a month of daily use and plenty of rewards, I can say that it will definitely be sticking around!
I came up with this idea over the summer (with inspiration from other teachers, of course), and implemented it on the very first day of school.

Here's how it works:

My kids are divided into tables (colors). The morning class are the circles and the afternoon class are squares (I use these shapes other places in the class to identify which class is which).

When a table does something AMAZING like staying on task while working together, being the first group ready to transition, etc., they earn a STAR (I painted about a million little wooden stars gold and hot glued small magnets to the back of each one. Thank you, Michaels!). An individual may also earn a star for their table by doing something AMAZING.

Once the table has reached their goal number of stars (I'm starting with 5 and then I'll work up from there to challenge them), they get to choose a pom pom from my cup. Each pom pom's color matches a prize on the Bravo! Board. I try to give them the reward as soon as possible because I am sure I'd forget if I put it off until a certain day. For example, if they choose candy, I give the table a jolly rancher or pixie stick immediately. No big.

The most popular prize so far has been lunch with Miss Leslie! Several tables have drawn the red pom pom, but a few have drawn "team choice" and chosen to have lunch with me! It's so much fun getting to hang out with them on a small group, no pressure basis. The other day, one of my sweetest friends said that in all his 7 years at our school (including Pre-K!), this was his first time eating lunch with a teacher. It's a small "price" to pay for fun memories for these guys.

Speaking of, a great thing about the Bravo! Board is the price! Many of the prizes are free, and the gum and candy are only chosen some of the time, so that expense is small. Last year, I was constantly buying chips, candy, and mechanical pencils to restock my ticket store. This is so much better!

Something else new in my class this year is Math Workshop!

Last year, I met with small groups on a daily basis, and really loved the close interaction. This year, I decided to just go for it and have real rotations. I have 4 rotations and 4 small groups with about 6 kids in each. I wish I could make them smaller groups, but then each rotation would have to be shorter, and they already fly by!
I'll make a whole post about how I do Math Workshop and what each rotation entails soon. I've got a lot to say about it! (Hint: I LOVE IT.)

My last classroom update is my Gotta Go passes. I borrowed this idea from a teammate from last year (The Teacher Dish), and I'm not looking back! Last year, students had to pay tokens to use the restroom, and could use leftovers at the ticket store at the end of the week. Lots of kids didn't like that because they thought it was unfair. After I had time to think it over, I think I agree with them. So this year, I thought, "I'll just let them use the restroom once during my class and it will be no problem." Well. I was wrong. It was hard for me to keep track of who used their "one time bathroom break" during each class, and sometimes kids do need to go twice.
Enter, the Gotta Go pass.

Everyone gets 6 of these to use in a week (just in my class, not my partner teacher's class). They write their name on their passes and keep them in their pencil pouches. Then, when they need to use the restroom, they just have to come up and show me their pass. I either nod or say "no," and they move on. They drop their pass in a bucket on my desk before they go. On Mondays, I pass back all the passes and they start over. There's no real benefit to hoarding your passes, but if you run out, you don't get to go. I spend so much of my day working in small groups, so having kids come up and ask, "Can I go to the bathroom?" 15 times during math rotations just was NOT working for me. These passes make necessary bathroom breaks much less of a disruption. I also use a different color for my morning and afternoon class to keep them all straight. Works wonders.

Whew! That's all for now! I'm off to wrap this week up and enjoy my weekend.

-Miss Leslie

Thursday, July 31, 2014


So this evening I was laying in bed reading "Wonder" by RJ Palacio. It's a great story with important life lessons, big questions, and both heart warming and gut wrenching moments throughout. Sooo needless to say, I was a teensy bit emotional. At a moment when I felt incredibly proud of a character (gosh, does that happen in books a lot? Feeling proud of a character?), I stopped reading and students from my class last year flashed through my head.

I thought about how lucky I am to have spent every day with them- these kids that might have a lot going on at home, these kids who will grow up to be real adult people, these kids that grew and matured so much just during the year or two I knew them, these kids that are so special and important to me. And I cried! I am definitely a crier in general, but I was not expecting to feel so emotional just thinking about them. Like I said, the word "lucky" just kept floating to my mind. I am so lucky that I get to spend probably more time with some kids than their parents. I am so lucky that I get to be around them and influence them at such a crucial time in their life- a time when they are figuring out who they are and who they want to be. And I am so lucky that I feel so very lucky to be a teacher.

I can't say for sure, because I haven't felt this feeling any other time in my life, but I have a feeling that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm meant to do right now- the right school, the right people, doing a job that is so very important to me.

Today I was up at school helping to coordinate an upcoming event, and outside I saw 4 girls that were in 5th grade last year out front. They had visited the 6th grade center on a very cool "Moving Up!" day, and were waiting to be picked up after the bus dropped them off. We all squealed with excitement when we saw each other- then hugged and caught up on summer and 6th grade and just everything. I was so excited and happy to see them! I think seeing those girls and thinking about all those 5th graders becoming 6th graders so soon just put me in this emotional place!

I hope I get to see more kids from last year, just to check in with them and see how they're doing! And I can't wait to get started with another group of kids- to get to know them, to figure them out, and to create those important relationships.
As I get back into my classroom and school starts back up, I don't want to forget the feelings and emotions I feel right now. Because it's easy to get bogged down in the day to day, in the test scores and data and drama and everything. But I know that's not what's important, and that's not what I (or hopefully the students!) will remember once the year is said and done.

Recently, I've talked to a few friends who said they aren't great at communicating through talking- especially when it comes to emotional stuff. They said they are much better at writing it down- a letter, a journal, whatever. Reflecting on myself, I think I'm the opposite! I'm not much of a writer, honestly. I'd rather tell someone, explain it, use my hands, look them in the eye- it just comes easier for me. So thank you for reading this I guess! I don't often feel compelled to write about my feelings, but tonight, it just seemed right.


Sunday, June 22, 2014


Well, here I am, 6 months after my last post. OOPS! 

Spring semester FLEW by- and now my first year of teaching is over! I can't believe it. I had such an amazing year. I learned so much and worked so hard and just loved every minute of it. The last day of school was filled with lots of hugs and tears!

Since I was so terrible at blogging, I'll just share a few pictures and things from the past semester!

We had a Family Reading Night in February with a camping theme! We all made bulletin boards, and this was mine. I had my students decorate a foil star for each week in February that they made their personal reading goal.

 These are the Valentines I made for my students. My mom helped me make them and I think they turned out really cute! I used my Silhouette Cameo's print & cut feature to speed up the process. My kids loved them- some of them had never tried a Twinkie before! Can you believe it?

 My beautiful room all taken apart for state testing :( 
I HATED my desks like this. My room is not very big and separating the desks killed so much space! Plus the tests were stressful and time consuming! Fifth graders here in Oklahoma take 5, yes FIVE, state tests. They were troopers and I'm so proud of all of them for doing their best!

The end of the year came so quickly after testing. We had an awesome graduation ceremony (complete with the entire grade singing Katy Perry's "Roar"- soooo cute), plenty of field trips (even a college tour!), Super Kids Day (an outside field day), and everyone's favorite day- Fifth Grade Fun Day! 
These are our fifth grade shirts. I think they turned out so great!

All in all, it was a wonderful semester. There are going to be lots of changes for the upcoming school year and I am so incredibly excited to organize, meet with others, and plan, plan, PLAN as the new year approaches. 

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! Teachers in blogland seem even more busy creating resources and projects during the summer- I'm so impressed! I'm enjoying teaching students how to type at summer school right now, and have a few fun things planned for the rest of the summer. 

I'm going to try REALLLY hard to do a better job blogging from now on! No promises though! ;)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's Already 2014?!?!

It's already 2014?!? Quite a bit into 2014, actually! Wow. I can't believe my first year of teaching is halfway through! It has seriously FLOWN by. It's been so much fun- and so much work! Before I know it, it will be time for the 5th grade writing test, then all the rest of the tests, and then it'll be May and school will be ending! Two weeks into the semester, and I know it's going to be a whirlwind!

I didn't get a chance to blog during the holidays, so I've got a backlog of pics to share!

Here's a panorama of my classroom with Christmas lights! One of my sweet students brought in all these lights because he wanted our room to be festive. He even stayed after school to help put them up!

We do monthly Currently papers and I display them here. I love doing Currently's with my class. It gives the kids a chance to talk about themselves and what they are interested in inside and outside of school. We share our responses during our morning meeting, and they can decorate the papers as much or as little as they want. 

Here's a view of outside my classroom door. I made a fireplace on my cabinet! It took so long, haha! But I love the way it turned out- it looks cozy and festive! The stockings hanging up have book recommendations on them. I still have the fireplace up (but not the stockings). I think I'll take it down once the weather warms up!

We had SO much fun at our holiday party. We spent a lot of time eating (yum!), but we had some time for a few marshmallow games! I found the ideas through google- one was picking up marshmallows with a straw and putting them in a cup- all without using their hands! They loved it, and I could not stop laughing! They were concentrating so hard! 
 (Pictures with blurred faces look weird to me, but I wanted to share how cute they are!)

After we had played all the games, I had them scatter the marshmallows on their desks and we played "Hungry Hungry Snowman." It was way too funny! I told them they didn't have to do it, but what do you know, not a single person chose to sit this one out! :)

One of my favorite things we did during the holiday season was make these adorable reindeer! We used patterns and directions from a book called "Cut and Create! For all the Seasons" that my teammate let me borrow. I didn't explain how to do it at all- I actually took a reading grade on how well they read and followed the directions. 
We were studying Fantasy Fiction at the time (in both reading and writing), so we took the opportunity to give our reindeer a special, magical power! They named them, and then wrote a few sentences describing the power. 

I love having these laminated black sheets of paper with their names on them to display their work. We do a new craft/activity every so often, usually that reflect the season. It really brightens the room up, and I love seeing their creativity displayed. I feel like it shows our classroom community and gives students a sense of ownership and responsibility. 

We started the year by doing self portraits. I had them write 3 similes about themselves to go with their drawing. We used these awesome crayons from Lakeshore Learning that have 24 different skin colors to complete their portraits.
My classroom is very diverse, and their faces absolutely lit up when I showed them these crayons. They were so excited that they didn't have to choose between peach and brown for their skin color! This was a great opportunity to talk about how everyone is different- hardly anyone chose the same crayon for their self portrait. 

Next, we did a jack-o-lantern graph from Anna Colley. Find it here! I actually don't have pictures of this one, but they were perfectly festive for Halloween!

When we came back from Winter Break, we made Alliteration Snowmen to replace our reindeer. 
I got my inspiration from Michelle at Apples & ABCs, and had my kids write 2 alliterations to go with their snowman. They turned out so well!

I'll leave the snowmen up for a while (it's kind of a pain to change them out all the time haha). The next thing we do will probably be St. Patrick's Day or maybe spring inspired. Any ideas?? 

The last thing I wanted to share was my sticky note bookmarks! I turned the anchor chart I made about stickies into a bookmark, then copied them on bright paper and had them laminated. Now, if students aren't sure what to make a sticky for, they can use this handy guide that's right inside their book! We've been pushing stickies for a while now, and I have been SO impressed with my students' progress! Their books are filled with sticky notes now. We used the symbols as a starting point, and now they can use a symbol (or not) and write a little to explain their thinking. I actually had a Donor's Choose project that was funded (yay!!!) that included lots and lots of SUPER STICKY post it notes! Something as simple as fun colors has really inspired them to use their stickies! 
During my read aloud books (right now we're reading "The Lightning Thief"!), I always use stickies. I pause and walk them through my thoughts as I make a sticky note. I show them what I wrote and leave it in the book. This, more than anything I think, has helped them continue to increase their sticky note volume and thought level. Modeling is super effective in this situation.  

These bookmarks are actually available in my TpT store! Check them out!

Whew! What a long post! If you read the whole thing, bless you. If you didn't and just scrolled to the end, bless you as well, and thank you for even visiting my blog! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November Update!

I haven't updated in a while because school (and life) have been SO. CRAZY. Being a first year teacher is no joke.

I can't believe how fast this year is going- before I know it, it will be Christmas, then 2nd semester, then the end of the year! Whew!

Here are some things I've been working on lately :)

We've just started really pushing using sticky notes. (R2S means Read 2 Self). They haven't had a ton of experience using sticky notes in the past, so we are starting small. Right now, I just want them to mark parts of their book using these flags (or whatever else they decide). The main purpose is to get them thinking about their own thinking and becoming actively involved in their own reading. We will also use these stickies during reading conferences- I can flip through their book and ask them to tell me more about a part they had marked. They will also be able to use their stickies when sharing with their reading partner. I had noticed that when it came time to share about their read to self books, they would say 1 or 2 things to their partner and just sit there, saying "I'm done." The plan here is that they can find a sticky note and tell their partner more about it- maybe they can help each other figure out unknown words, talk through a confusing part, or just share a funny part together. They will at least have something to get their conversation going. 
So far stickies are going really well! I'm excited to get going and build onto this skill throughout the year. 

Here is my Vocabulary bulletin board (with a guest appearance by my glitter pumpkin!)! 
This past month, we have really been working on character traits- identifying them in our read aloud (Esperanza Rising), in picture books, using them to make connections with other characters, etc. I found some great resources online (like this awesome chart that we put into our readers' notebooks) to help give them words to use besides "nice" or "mean," but I noticed that they didn't know what the most of the words meant! So each week, we have 10 new character trait vocabulary words. They are posted all week, we discuss them within our read aloud books, and they add them to their own personal character trait chart as we go. We think of a character (book, movie, real life) that reminds us of that trait, and write it down next to the word. That way they aren't copying definitions, but instead, making a meaningful (and personal) connection to the word. We choose a character altogether, but they are always welcome to write down a character that makes sense to them. 
At the end of the week, we do a quick matching definitions assessment to see what they learned. We're on our last week of words, and I've been so impressed with their expanding vocabularies! I've heard kids use words from past weeks in our discussions and in their writing. I'm working on getting this mini-unit ready for Teachers Pay Teachers so keep your eye out for that soon! 

I just made this Fractions Anchor Chart as we start our next chapter in math. Fractions, yikes! As 5th graders, they've had several years of experience with fractions, but it still takes a little bit of reviewing for everything (or almost everything) to come back to them! 
I have to say, I'm a huge fan of anchor charts- I love directing kids to the charts when they have questions, and seeing them look up at them while they are working is just wonderful. I'm a teeny bit of a perfectionist when it comes to charts though, so I'm laminating all mine this year to be re-used in the future!

On a more personal note, I just ordered and received these shoes, and wore them for the first time today. I think they're really cute but they are going to take some breaking in for sure. I've been on the hunt for a super comfortable pair of winter appropriate shoes for the last few weeks. Up until recently, I've worn a super cute pair of gold Birkenstock sandals as often as possible. I do wear other shoes, but Birks are SO comfortable, and I'm on my feet almost every minute of the day. I really would like to keep wearing Birkenstocks, but last week I wore my sandals and one of my girls said, "Miss Leslie, isn't it too cold to be wearing sandals?" Ooops, busted. I thought I might just get the close-toed Birkenstocks, but those make it look like I'm wearing potatoes on my feet, and I'm just not going for that look usually. 
So I got the Sperry's. We'll see how they go- I doubt they are as comfortable as Birks, but you never know. I never thought I'd be the type of person to put comfort above almost everything else in a shoe. Being a teacher makes you do crazy things :)