May 17, 2016

Teaching Writing Using a Traffic Light

Developing good writers in your classroom takes time. It is something you have to be mindful of when you are planning your instruction. Your students are at various levels and writing skills vary. Finding a way for all students to feel successful is our main goal. Writing using a traffic light has been so beneficial for many students, including mine. It is a simple way for students to understand the writing process.

Starting with the planning process you help your students understand the topic they are writing about. It is important to create prior knowledge for our students. As you all know, some students do not have the prior knowledge important to write what you are asking them to write. Brainstorm together as a large group. Ask questions and spark student led discussions. You will notice they will gain interest in the topic being discussed. Have a notebook handy for your students to keep their ideas. Have a visual for them on an anchor chart or white board. Making sure to set your students up for success from the very beginning is very important. They need to have all the knowledge before we ask them to start writing.

The traffic light paragraph is a guide for your student authors through the writing process. It gives your students a clear outline for their writing. Always start with the green light. This is where you teach them about the topic sentence. Choose a topic as an example and start building prior knowledge with discussion and questioning. This is a part of the planning process. Move to the yellow light, which is the meat and potatoes of their writing, the supporting details. This is a difficult step for most students because they have to come up with details about a topic they may not know a lot about. This is why planning and discussion before hand is so important. You may need to do more questioning for students to encourage writing. Again, doing a large group writing example is a great idea. Start with an easy topic like recess and have them help you write supporting details. Once your students have solid supporting details, they can move to the red light. This is where your students will conclude their writing with a concluding sentence. This is where they need to bring their writing back to the main idea. Give them examples on how you would conclude your writing about recess. Make sure they have the tools and knowledge to come up with a sentence on their own. 

Publishing is an important step in the writing process. This is what your students have been waiting for the entire time! You can have them develop a pop-up book, poster, interactive piece, or simply write on a colored piece of paper. This step is so important. It shows your students their writing matters and is important. Cut long strips of green, yellow, and red paper. Use a large piece of construction paper to display their writing. (It does not matter what color.) Have them write their topic sentence on green, details on yellow, and their concluding sentence on red. Have them add art work if time and there you go, your students will have a writing piece they can be proud of and will be encouraged to keep writing!

*Disclaimer: Be prepared for your students to want you to cut colored strips for every writing piece they ever do from that point on!  

Make sure to check out my Writing a Paragraph Using a Traffic Light resource. Thank you!

May 16, 2016

Flexible Seating in the Classroom


First of all, I know what you are thinking. How am I ever going to do this with my students? I truly believe we should do what is best for our students, and I am sure you do too.  Not all students are going to do well with a desk and a chair (traditional seating). I taught for seven years in a third grade classroom. My first year was hard. Wait, that is an understatement...it was the hardest year of teaching and I wanted to throw in the towel after one year. Yes, one year! I had to evaluate what I was doing and the reason I became a teacher. The reason was pretty simple actually, to give my students the best education possible. If this meant I had to change how I taught, how I set up my classroom, my classroom management, I was going to do it!


I started with choosing a theme. The first year I chose a tropic theme and went all out. I had a tiki Hut, palm trees, benches, and bean bags. I wanted to make my classroom a fun and inviting place to learn. It was absolutely amazing the difference in the mood and energy of my students. It was a game changer for my classroom. Here is a picture of my tiki-hut. My students LOVED it! A camping theme came shortly after that seemed to take over my classroom even more than my tropical theme.



Classroom management is a large component in flexible seating. It is so important to have your classroom management plan in place before you try any changes in your classroom set-up. Having a classroom behavior clip-chart helped my students. All classrooms and teachers are different and a behavior clip-chart may not be what works for you. You have to discover what will work for your students. This might change year to year. My students always knew that I could move them if they were not engaged in what they were working on. Expectations need to be set at the beginning of the year just like you would with traditional seating. 

You don't have to spend a lot of money to have flexible seating. I absolutely love DonorsChoose. I had multiple donations including bean bags, chair back buddies, math supplies, and a reading rug. I found kid's chairs at garage sales and stools that other teachers did not want. Just use what you have or items you find and it will all come together. Parents are another great source of donations. Send a letter home telling them what you are doing and ask if they are willing to donate. Most of the time they are more than willing to donate. 

Get rid of your student desks and replace with tables. This may be the hardest part for some teachers. This was the most exciting part for me. I asked my custodian if I could have tables and he was more than willing to find them for me. I taught in a large school corporation so we did have tables available. He removed all of my desks expect for two. I kept two desks for the students that needed a bit more structure and the traditional seating. Place a few organizational caddies on the middle of the tables and you are all set! 

You are going to love it! It will take time to get used to and you will need a plan before your students come in on the first day. It is something that takes time and patience. Make sure you have a place for everything. Chair back buddies were a must for me; however, I have seen teachers have storage cabinets for student supplies. Find what works for you and your classroom. Have fun with it and enjoy. It is amazing how much your students will grow throughout the year as independent learners.