Warm Weather Rewards {A June BRIGHT Idea!}

I'm so excited to join some of my favorite blogging buddies for another month of bright ideas! For June, I thought I'd share some of the behavior rewards my grade level used at the end of the year to keep our kiddos a *little* more motivated to be on their best behavior. These rewards were perfect for the warm weather we get during the last weeks of school!

Warm Weather Rewards for your elementary classroom!

I want to start by saying that both of these incentives were discussed with our students and explained to our parents through a letter. Our team worked together to write it up and we asked all parents to sign it so that we were all on the same page. If students didn't get it signed, they knew they wouldn't be allowed to participate in the rewards no matter what. All of this was approved by our super-fantastic administration.

When state testing started, we knew we needed something to push our kids to a) do their best each day and b) behave after testing ended each day. A few years ago, one of my good friends started using a water party as an incentive. It didn't take long for the rest of us to jump on board. This was the first year we held the water party as a grade level and it was AWESOME.

Students enjoying water day

The kids earned 10 minutes of water party time each day - 5 minutes for each section of the test we had to take. We didn't do anything crazy - we just asked the kids to try their best and use their strategies. Most kids earned their time every day. If they lost time, it was usually because they ended their day on yellow, orange, or red. Or, they just flat out lost their mind and did something crazy. Like lick their neighbor's pizza at lunch. And then lie about it.

The best part of this reward is that we spent practically Z-E-R-O dollars of our own money on it. The kids could bring in a water toy (as long as it didn't resemble a gun, per our district rules) or $1. We found water crayons at our Dollar Tree for $1 and we bought the stink out of them.

Make sure to visit your local Dollar Tree for water toys that aren't guns!
water crayon = not a water gun :)
We only hogged the playground for about an hour and a half. We used Rubbermaid storage bins and filled them up with water. The "refueling station" was a no squirting zone... and also a great place to hold the kids who didn't get the full time.

Have a central station where students can refill their water toys!

We took the first 30 minutes to get everyone on the field and explain the ground rules to the kids - no running on the playground equipment (stay on the grass), don't squirt the teachers, only squirt someone below the face, and wear your shoes.

Set clear expectation and rules before students enjoy their water fun!
listening to rules waiting to play
We also sent home a letter a couple of days before the water party reminding the kids to bring
  • a towel
  • a change of clothes (including shoes and socks!)
  • a not-water-gun-water-toy
  • OR the $1 for the water crayon
And then?

Then there was 45 minutes of this...

Wet, but they had so much fun!

Refilling the water crayon before running back out!

They all agreed: BEST. DAY. EVER.

The year wasn't totally over, though! We needed something to get us through the last few days of school. So, we employed one of our old tactics - behavior stickers.

Use address labels inside notebooks to track student progress towards earning rewards.
Popsicles = cheap, perfect for warm weather, and can be sugar-free!
Everybody gets a sticker. (We've also just printed them out on paper and taped or glued it down.) We put it inside the cover of their homework journal to make it hard for them to hide easy for parents to find. If they forgot their homework or ended their day on yellow, orange, or red they lost a letter. Once a letter is gone, it's gone. 

You only have to have ONE letter left to participate in the reward. We used this sticker with 2 weeks (10 days) of school left, and everyone earned their Popsicle. We've used other stickers throughout the year for other rewards - field trips, field day, movie party, etc. - and they work really well for our kids. Yes, there are kids that miss out. But, the number of kids who miss the reward gets smaller and smaller with each reward.

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I hope this has given you some good ideas for back to school rewards, or for your end of the year fun for next year! Make sure you check out the rest of the bright ideas below!

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Wait! What Happens Next?!


I realized that I never clicked "publish" on this post. I am so sorry!! :) Here is the schedule for the rest of the book study. 

Here are the hosts for each of the selections. They are broken up by chapter, with a shorter "sub-chapter" as a follow-up. You'll want to make sure you follow each of the hosts so you don't miss a THING. :) 

If you are a blogger, we would love for you to join us each week by linking up your posts and ideas. If you don't blog, that's okay! Please read, comment, and follow along as we make our way through this together. We all want to hear your advice, thoughts, and ideas for the classroom, too. The more peeps we have joining in on the conversations, the more better our classrooms and students will be when we go (gasp!) back to school! 

Chapter 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read (June 19th)
Chapter 1: Creating a Workshop Schedule (June 26th) *This is a SUPER short section (only 4 pages), but a great chance to share/showcase your workshop schedule and sneek a peek at classrooms all over the world!*

Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material (July 3rd)

Chapter 2: Curating a Classroom Library (July 10th)

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Others & Conferring: What's the Point? (July 17th)

Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans (July 24th)

Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Reading Preference (July 31st)

I'm so sorry my fingers weren't smart enough to post this earlier this week, but I wanted to make sure you had it. :) I'll see you back here on the 26th for more Reading in the Wild goodness, and before then for some Guided Math Conferencing and other goodies.

See you soon!

Reading in the Wild: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read {Chapter 1}

Oh. My. Goodness.

I'm so excited to kick this off today!! I cannot start without thanking the fan-tab-u-lous Catherine over at The Brown-Bag Teacher for organizing this book study. This is going to be an awesome adventure this summer!


Misty {at Think, Wonder & Teach} and I are the lucky duck hosts for this week, so let's get started!

Can I just stop and tell you how much I love this quote?

It's so true. Especially today. 

One of the things I love most about summer is the ability to turn off the TV, stretch out on my couch, and just READ. I love being able to "create" quiet when so much of my year is filled with noise. :) It's harder during the school year, but I manage to steal a few minutes most days to read. But summer... I look forward to those days all year long.

So how do we "grow" that desire in our own students? How do we stress the importance of reading outside our classrooms without assigning reading logs?

I loved the idea of planting this seed by making it a part of my Readers Workshop lessons.

I see it playing out a bit like this: 

Mini-Lesson: Much like Donalyn mentioned, I'd talk with students about my weekend, focusing on the places and times I found time to read. While we're chatting I'd start an anchor chart (WILD Readers Can Read...) and list those instances. 

As a third grade teacher, I find my kiddos are a little more "visual" - simply retelling my weekend wouldn't completely relay the message to all of my learners. I'd make sure to mention a time where I forgot to bring a book (even if I have to fib a bit) - and talk with them about why I wish I'd remembered one.

Task: Next, I'd ask them turn and talk with a partner. I want them to talk and think about places they've been able to read outside of school (or our class). Or, as Donalyn suggested - think of places where you were waiting and bored Could you read there? Together we'd add a few more to the chart.

Closing: Give students the challenge of taking a book with them everywhere they go for the next few days. Make note of any "reading emergencies" they encounter. Over the next few days, if students find a place that's not on the chart encourage them to add it. You might even consider starting a class graph to track the different places students catch themselves reading outside your classroom.

What an easy and engaging way to starting building the habit of bringing a book everywhere you go! 

On the other hand, we also have to create time and space for students to read inside our classrooms. 

As a reading teacher this is a bit easier for me. It's my job. However, one of the things I worked really hard to eliminate in my classroom was the "maxi-lesson." It is an independent reading time suck.

People, this is hard. We are teachers. We like to talk. It is really really easy to take a 5-10 minute lesson and let it grow like a wild beast into a 15+ minute lesson. But, it is more important to model a skill or strategy quickly so that our students have time to read. We're going to talk a little more about what our workshops look like in a few days, but I will say this. We have to protect their independent work/reading time like it is gold. Because it is. You can pull the kids who "didn't get it" during guided reading, strategy groups, or for an individual conference. Independent work time is one of the strongest and most powerful tools you have in your teacher basket. Be smart with it.

So what is a wild reader? 

I have always been a wild reader. My nose has been in a book for as long as I can remember. I was the kid who brought a book (or 4) everywhere - the doctor's office, my grandmother's house, the grocery store, and even church... {Sssh! Don't tell my mama!} I don't remember anyone teaching me to do those things, but I do remember my parents encouraging my "habit." 

I know many of my students don't have that kind of support at home. Some of them are lucky, but many of my kids come from parents who struggle with reading in their own language. As I look ahead to next year, these "wild reader" lessons will become even more important. It almost feels like the missing piece! :) 

Then we have the kids who are not wild readers. I think they might even be "wildly allergic" to reading. HA!! I love the warning signs Donalyn mentioned and I thought (as I'm sure you did too) of a dozen kids who fit each description. 

I also thought her observation strategy was brilliant and I really loved that it was something I could do over the course of three days. I especially appreciate that she mentioned the need for "delicacy and caring" when conferring with our fake readers. We don't want them to feel as though they're under attack, we want to give them an opportunity to look at reading in a different way. If we want our students to fall in love with books, we have to find ways to connect with them. These conferences shouldn't come across as a "gotcha" moment. 

Finally, I want to leave you with a freebie that will grow as our book study progresses. I'll add pages to it throughout the summer. I would love to hear from you if there's something in Reading in the Wild that you think we should add as well. 

Click to download!

As of today's post, the freebie pack includes: 
  • "Wild Readers Can Read..." anchor chart and sample
  • Reading Itinerary pages for students
  • Reading Observation forms for teachers

I hope you're enjoying this book as much as we are. Don't forget to check in with Misty - she has some fantastic insights to share with you as well! 

Think, Wonder, & Teach

If you're a blogger, link up with us below. I can't wait to see what everyone else is thinking about our book study so far!


Nothing to Do! {A 7 Habits FREEBIE!}

Writer's workshop can be one of the most challenging subjects to teach. Add in a few reluctant writers, and your entire workshop becomes the longest part of your day. By giving your students a few words to start with, you can often spark a little bit of written inspiration in your writers.


Over the last fifteen years, I've started to incorporate thinking stems into my writer's workshop more often. Not every student will need them, but every student can certainly benefit from having thinking stems available.

I usually post a few on the day's anchor chart, or I provide them to students at my table in a small group.

I like to give students a variety of thinking stems to choose from. They need to feel comfortable finishing the sentence before they can feel inspired to write the next one! It also keeps our class pieces from getting "stale" and hearing the same phrases repeated over and over.


I'd love to share a recent thinking stem activity with you today!

Our Student Lighthouse Team worked together to choose the different books we used as a school to promote the 7 Habits. They chose one for each month we were in school, and each classroom was given a copy. While the majority of the books incorporated several different habits, the Student Lighthouse Team wanted to make sure we spent some quality time at the end of the year talking about Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw.

 Click Me!

Nothing to Do is a book about everything you can do during those rare moments in life when there's (sigh) nothing to do.  I love the way the author guides readers to use their imaginations to explore the great outdoors and the magic in everyday objects. I don't know about you, but sometimes it seems as though this is something my students struggle more with every year!

After we read the book we talked about the things we could do to avoid boredom. My two classes were very different this year. In my morning group, we sat and brainstormed out loud before the kids went back to their seats to work. In my afternoon group, I made a chart listing the keywords they would need to write their responses. In both groups, I used a set of thinking stems to model responses for my kiddos.

Thinking stems are a great way to get your reluctant writers putting pencil to paper. If the first half of the sentence is there, they have no excuse for not finishing it! :) They also provide a solid model for your students who need extra support in writing stronger sentences.

I always have a group of kids who ask if they have to use the thinking stems... this is usually how I know they've outgrown that strategy. :) I tell them to write 2 sentences on their own and then stop by for a quick conference. This lets me give them the independence they are seeking without letting them run wild into a writing piece they may not be ready for yet.

I asked the kids to use at least 2 of the thinking stems. Again, giving them more options than necessary lets them have more control over their final piece. It also ensures that your hallway displays won't be boring and repetitive! :)

It's always interesting to me to see which kids pick different thinking stems. Their "voices" start to appear as they make different choices.

So, if you think this is something you'd like to use I have it here for you! I've included the thinking stems chart and two different publishing pages - one with primary lines and one without.

Get your FREE Nothing to Do writing activity!

Implement thinking stems with your students today!
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    Currently... AND a Guided Math Giveaway!!

    I completely forgot that today would be "Currently Day" when I started scheduling posts, so we're just going to have ourselves a little mash-up! :)

    Mr. Bookworm is mowing the yard and I am sitting inside listening to the hum of the A/C and the fans blowing inside our house. I am SO. HOT. ALL. THE. TIME. I'm afraid summer is going to get very uncomfortable... and expensive. ;-)

    I've also eaten my gazillionth bowl of fruit salad this week. My current concoction consists of blueberries, strawberries, canteloupe, and papaya. YUM. The are certainly worse cravings to have (and I've consumed my fair share of ice cream) so I'm enjoying this one!!

    I'm also reading like it's my job! I mentioned the long list of books loaded on my iPad right now. I'm also reading up on babies, growing readers, and guided math. I can't wait to start sharing what I'm learning {from the last 2} with you soon!! Make sure you read through to the end of this post to enter my guided math giveaway!

    My girlfriends and I have been taking a summer trip together for almost 8 years. Because the first part of my pregnancy was a little more challenging than we expected, I had to bow out of a Nashville trip back in April. That was not fun. I may have spent several weepy nights at home. I know there will be a trip this summer, and I'll have to sit that one out as well. Little Man will certainly be worth it, but I miss being able to join my girls whenever I want to! 

    Yes, we still need nursery furniture. Holy SMOKES, that stuff can get expensive. We have several projects going on before Little Man gets here, but our new focus is the nursery furniture. Most of our weekend time has been spent driving around metro Atlanta exploring different stores and warehouses. I think we're getting close to finding what we want, but I'd feel a little less stressed if I could check that off our list!

    I can't wait for our babymoon. I'm so ready to stick my feet in the sand and my whale tail in the pool! :) 
    I'm also hoping to sign up for a prenatal yoga class I just discovered around the corner from our house. Has anyone tried this before? I've never really done yoga before and I don't want to look like a moron! HA!!

    My office is being "relocated" to the playroom/bonus room in our basement. Once the nursery is put together, this will be my last big home project for the summer!

    Make sure you join the fabulous Farley for more Currentlys around the web!

    Last, but not least, I wanted to remind you to join me as I jump into Guided Math Conferences with another group of my blogger buddies this summer. We'll kick off this study on June 19th HERE at Third Grade Bookworm!


    If you can't find it on Amazon, check with Barnes and Noble. When I checked earlier today, they still had copies in stock. You can also sign up for an Amazon alert when it's back in stock if you're an Amazon Prime addict like me!

    I would love to give away ONE copy of Guided Math Conferences to a reader who wants to join us this summer. Just enter the Rafflecopter below. There are 3 ways to enter! I want to make sure the winner has time to start reading before June 19th, so this giveaway will be quick! Enter before 11:00 pm on Monday, June 2nd.That's tomorrow!

    If you missed yesterday's giveaway for a copy of Reading in the Wild, you still have time to enter there as well!! Hurry hurry!