Study on Stickers

Okay, so it’s not really a study. But I want to talk about stickers because I think these wonderful teaching tools have been forgotten. I have not seen my own children bring home papers with stickers in years! This is so sad. M’s and P’s aren’t good enough. N’s kill spirits and bring frowns and tears. But stickers – yep, these little, inexpensive prizes bring hope, a sense of accomplishment, and an urgency to try harder. These beautiful, sparkling jewels come in varying degrees of awesomeness and students of all ages love them and will do just about anything to get one…..If you know how to use them right.

First of all, you have to notice the true differences in stickers because sparkles are different than Sponge Bob, which are different than motivational sayings like, “Good Job”, “Fantastic”, or “A+”. Small circular stickers meant for daily achievements and tallying like homework being completed or timeliness in getting a book open are very different than jewel shaped, 3D stickers with cut facets. They all represent different levels of achievement and work ethic. You have to recognize the difference, but more importantly so do your students.

You have to make the sticker achievement important. A sticker in your classroom must be earned. You can’t give them out willy-nilly. They have to have meaning. If you do this, you will not find any better class motivator. A perfect example is a review in writing vocabulary and spelling sentences. This is an extremely important assignment in my class. Sentences using key words tell me a lot about a student’s ability. They tell me if the student knows how to capitalize and punctuate, if they understand verb tense and the use of figurative language, and finally if they can use the new word in context correctly. This is a big deal, especially working with children who have limited vocabularies. As soon as I go to my sticker drawer and begin picking out the perfect stickers, my kids start sitting straight in their seats and begin to scan their papers for the perfect sentence. I can tell immediately who put their best effort into their work and who will have to do some editing. Hands start shooting up in the air and I begin to hear students begging to be called on to share their work. As I call on children, my class knows the drill: only the best sentences will receive stickers and only the sentence of the highest quality will be given a high end sticker. If you are standing in my doorway or walking down the hall you will hear loud comments like, “That’s not sticker worthy!”, “That should get a sparkly sticker!”, or the highest compliment, “That gets a smelly sticker!!!!!”

Man-oh-man, if you want an invested class, stickers are the way to do it.

My daughter who is a senior this year had a history teacher last year who learned quickly. She saw stickers in the teacher’s desk and immediately asked him what they were for. It seems his wife got them for his birthday, but he didn’t know what to do with them. One day, Melanie, earned an A on a test and asked for a sticker for her paper. He obliged and others asked too. Little by little, this gentleman caught on. Melanie started to tell me that students began scanning and searching the classroom to see who earned a sticker and started comparing stickers. Melanie’s grades remained high and each paper she received with a sticker was proudly displayed to me and the rest of our family. She told me how the teacher bought new ones and how she told him about the smelly stickers. By the end of the year the quality of the stickers improved. Folks, this is at the high school level!

As teachers, we invest so much money in our classrooms. I highly recommend walking down the sticker aisle. I’m telling you, they work!


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There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that reaffirms who I am more than spending time with my mother.

My parents had the kind of marriage everyone wants. They adored and respected each other, all while realizing how lucky each one was to be married to their better half, the one who completed them. Spending time with my mom, (and my dad when he was alive), always was a calming, deeply organic experience. They did not have time for nonsense. They were who they thought they should be, and they always did the right thing. My mom is amazing how she sees a need of someone else and fills it. She is widowed from the love of her life, yet she finds time to think of others. I hope I can become half of what my parents modeled to me…then I will know my life mattered.

 


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Let’s Talk Math

I know the holidays are upon us and I know Amy wrote a beautiful reflection piece, but I just have to share this story and great teaching resources with you.

I teach two remedial math classes this year. I can honestly say that I have grown to love teaching these challenging students and helping them reach their academic goals. These children are far below grade level in math. Most of my students are ELL, but I also have a few that have ADHD and/or other learning disabilities which place them on either IEP’s or 504 plans. This is my second year teaching remedial math in middle school. I have a 6th and a 7th grade class averaging 17 students each. Thankfully both classes are small and I can really reach and teach all of the students….although an aid would be great.

After lengthy placement assessments, observations, and trial-and-error, I have figured out where each of my students stand. I immediately signed them all up on XtraMath.com which is a free website that allows teachers to create class lists and provides speed review on basic facts in all four operations. In order for students to move on to a different operation, they must complete their facts within three seconds each. Teachers can manually override the system to change operations and/or time. This website is extremely helpful to my students because the vast majority do not know their basic facts by sight. My kids improve quickly and have fun while doing it. As soon as they walk into my room they grab a computer and take five minutes completing the flash review.

This year I have discovered TenMarks. This a fantastic website that teachers can utilize free or with a per student fee. I am using the free service now, but I have already begun begging my principal for the paid service for next year. Once again you create classes at any grade level. If you are teaching students at varying ability levels (which we all are!) I highly recommend creating names for your classes and assigning a different grade level for each original name. I have names like, “You Can Do It”, “Improving”, “I’m Proud of You”, and so on. I have students ranging from first grade level to sixth grade. This website offers math lessons in all grades covering every single Common Core standard. They provide videos and hints for each lesson and the questions are written in the format of the standards. Students can use earphones to listen to the questions being read, the videos, and the hints. This website is exceptional and my kids utilize the lessons at least twice a week during our two longer blocks of math. During whole class discussions my students have a very hard time with long winded, wordy explanations. The Common Core babble is just too difficult for them. I love TenMarks because the site exposes my students to the Common Core vocabulary, questions, and challenging curriculum at their individual grade level. I can track my students’ progress and move them up or down levels as I deem necessary. I don’t have to rush them or myself during daily lessons because they are receiving background on all standards via the website. They love it and so do I because I can print out their individual reports for a paper trail and tailor their assignments to fit their needs. It’s brilliant!I asked my students to work on TenMarks over the break and I already received a request from one of my students for additional assignments!

Students can utilize both of these websites on computers, IPads, and smart phones. I highly recommend both of these resources and I hope they help you reach your academic goals.


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Thankful Reflections

The week before Christmas is a crazy time at our school. There are so many interruptions and the students’ are feeling the excitement and the stress of the season. I am so happy to have a break. I came home and fell asleep on the couch within 20 minutes. But as I reflected later I realized a few things that made my exhaustion feel like a warm blanket of love and hope.

The Top 10 Reasons to be Happy today:

  1. A student who was on suicide watch last Christmas hugged me so tight on the way out of school today and thanked me for always having her back.
  2. I won a Starbucks card for my ridiculous lighted star hat.
  3. Youngstown Diocese wants Lori and I, as Twoteachersontheedge, to conduct an in-service for them in March!
  4. My son was so happy and proud to give the homemade pizzelles he made for 2 hours last night to his 5 favorite teachers.
  5. That Tori an 8th grader yelled, “Goodbye Mrs. Loring, Merry Christmas, I love you!” on her way out the door.
  6. When a family in crisis called for help the entire school community stepped up and supported them unselfishly.
  7. When the Kindergarten class sang Christmas carols on the way to lunch down the hall bringing cheer and innocence through the school.
  8. The homemade tamales we had for lunch yesterday were the bomb!
  9. That my 8th grade class actually worked on their book projects intently today, even with so much chaos happening around them.
  10. That the Lord has sent me to the place I am supposed to be right now.

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Dreams Do Come True

 

Once upon a time, a young girl came to our school. She was undocumented, and her parents spoke little English. She was brilliant, but poor, and lived in the shadows.

When her father was picked up and threatened with deportation, the school community helped with letters, legal advice, and prayers.

This young lady continued to do well in school, continued to help her parents, worked with other Latinos in the parish, and said her prayers. She assisted neighbors in the trailer court by translating all kinds of documents for them.

She excelled in her studies, was a National Merit Semi Finalist, played in the band, participated in the Mock Trial, and always hoped that her future held the promise America should give to all of its school children.

When it was time to apply to colleges, she came back to us for help. Today we learned that this bright young woman received her acceptance letter to Notre Dame! Oh, but that is not all, she has also been accepted to The Ohio State University and Florida Southern has offered her a total financial package including books. She is waiting to hear from Harvard.

In the midst of the frustrations we have daily with our students and the struggles we face together, sometimes it is great to be reminded that we do make a difference and dreams can come true.

 

Special thanks to and for Mrs. Petrella, she is the driving force behind so many of our students and has been such an inspiration to the students she has taught over the years, and her fellow teachers. She makes the world more interesting with her dazzling vocabulary, cheerful disposition, and unending dedication to Notre Dame. This story belongs to her.

 


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