What’s The Deal With Puppets In The Classroom?

Puppets have a special place in the classroom of littles. Using a puppet in teaching may feel like another item to worry about or check off your ever-growing to-do list, however, when used correctly, they can be powerful to students. It’s as if you have a second teacher in the classroom, a separate being with separate ideas is what they see it as. Puppets to students are magical, even when they are old enough to know better of what they are and how they work, their little brains work in the way that they look at that inanimate object as an animate object with its own thoughts and feelings, even if they are all indirectly coming from you as the puppeteer. 

Tips for using a puppet in the classroom: 

  • Use him as an example of good behaviors you want students to model.
  • Use him as an example of common problems in the classroom such as trouble with a math problem. Later, when students run into the same problem, a great reminder for them would be how the puppet solved the problem. 
  • Use him as a new storyteller in the classroom. 
  • Let the puppet introduce new topics such as persuasive writing or reading non-fiction. 
  • Let the students use the puppet as a writing audience. 
  • Turn it into an art project and allow the students to create their own puppets. 

Puppets have a big place in the classroom, whether he or she becomes a part of the classroom, or they are simply used in dramatic play for storytelling. The best part of puppets is that they can be as complicated and expensive as your limits allow, but also as simple as a sock with buttons glued on. They don’t care about the complexity of it, they just care about the magic behind it.

Do you use puppets in the classroom? What benefits do you see? 

My Favorite Positive Reinforcement Strategies In The Classroom

You can read countless research studies on a positive environment and how using these positive reinforcement strategies can help you see better behavior in kids, spouses, pets, co-workers and more. When it comes down to it, those who are properly praised for a task will statistically try harder and do better the next time it is expected of them. 

Creating a positive classroom culture starts with a simple positive comment toward your students. Here are a few of my favorite positive reinforcement ideas I came up with while teaching. 

A cheerio or other cereal placed on the desks of students who are following directions. 

Tally points on the board for groups that were working together or following directions, that ended up amounting to no reward other than “winning” against other groups. 

Little stickers for students showing correct behaviors. 

High-fives to those following directions. Oprah style worked best for us- “Johnny gets a high-five, Amelia gets a high-five, Andrew gets a high-five! Awesome job on following directions!” It’s amazing what kids will do for a simple high-five and a little public praise. 

Simple and subtle compliments to students working hard. 

We put a money economy system in place with coins. It’s fun to see the hard work first graders will put into cleaning up the floor at the end of the day when a plastic nickel is on the line. 

My favorite way by far was telling the class every single day what an amazing group of students they are. They become what you tell them they are- So tell them they are great and eventually they are going to believe you. I have more thoughts on this later, stayed tuned for another blog post regarding this. 

Praising positive behaviors yields productive results. It has been researched, it’s science. And on top of that, I’ve witnessed first-hand how well it works, not only with my students, but my children, and even, MY DOG. 

How have you made your classroom a positive place? 

What Substitute Teachers Wish Teachers Knew

Recently I wrote an open note to teachers from their subs. I’ve spent multiple school years substitute teaching in classrooms when full-time teaching wasn’t a possibility for me. After being in so many classrooms with vastly different situations each time, here are my best tips to teachers from their subs on how we can have a successful day with a few extra resources. 

  • Please don’t ever feel like you’re leaving too much information. We can be walking into a completely new school that day so assuming we know nothing is the best protocol. 
  • Giving us information on students is extremely helpful. Who might need extra help, who would be extra help, who to trust to run the classroom keys back down to the front office. Even certain behaviors to look out for and the best way to handle them. 
  • Knowing the attention-getters you use for your class can be a big tool for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of a classroom singing out, “class, class” only to get weird stares from half the kids and louder talking from the other half. Leave us with at least one to use. 
  • Leave us with the name and directions to the classroom of one teacher close by that can help in a time of crisis. This can be something as small as turning on the projector, or as big as locking the classroom during a lockdown.   
  • We thrive on your lesson plans. I had a good friend tell me an awful story about a week-long sub job in a special ed classroom with no lesson plans. She had to come up with something to do every day that week with these students, in which she had no previous training on how to teach them, or what they are learning. In some states, a teaching degree or license is not required, so lesson plans are crucial. 
  • The classrooms I had the most success in had a binder with labeled maps, procedures, a class list, the lesson plans for the day. Everything we need to know right there, and something the teacher had to make once and only replace lesson plans as needed.  

We want to have a successful day teaching your students, and the more information we have to do this, the better! I have never walked into a classroom and thought the teacher left me with too much. Even if there was material that was never used it still helped me feel prepared.

Are you a substitute teacher? What other tips do you have? 
Are you a teacher? What tips do you have for subs? 

My Best Field Trip Tips

Field trips season is coming this spring! Nothing causes kids more excitement and teachers more anxiety than a day outside of school in unfamiliar territory. Field trips can be so nerve-wracking because it takes planning, permission slips, parent volunteer sign-ups, and more. 

I spent two months in a 4th-grade classroom during my time student teaching, and during that time we as a 4th-grade team went on SIX different field trips! In my next block of student teaching, I was in a 2nd-grade classroom where we went on two field trips in two months. In my first long-term substitute teaching job after graduation, the first-grade team I was working with brought the kids on a field trip to the aquarium. All within the same school year, I was able to experience TEN field trips. 

Ten field trips in nine months with three different age groups gave me a lot of experience that I am here to share with you now! 

  • Prep the students beforehand- Don’t leave them with uncertainty, walk them through what will happen, how it will happen, and how you expect it to happen. Tell them how to enter the bus, how to sit on the bus, how to handle lunchtime, how to find you if they need you, and more. Set CLEAR expectations and repeat them again and again. 
Exploring and learning about The Great Salt Lake by getting into it!
  • Give your students examples and stories of why your expectations are set the way they are. The first field trip I went on with my 4th-grade class, their teacher told them a story of how she lost a student on a field trip because the student wasn’t following instructions and she wasn’t paying close enough attention. She made them a promise that she would pay extra attention to every single one of them and do her part if they did their part by adhering to expectations. Adding a personal experience helped those students realize just how important paying attention and following procedures really was. 
  • Count your students. Then Count again. And again. Always be counting the students.
  • Use the buddy system. It is used often and is somewhat obvious for teachers, and for good reason, it works! 
Writing in their field trip journals
  • Have your students keep a field trip journal to record their learning. Give them prompts during breaks to write about what they are seeing, learning, and doing.
  • Parents. You most likely have at least one parent in your classroom that is willing to step up and to help you with what you need. Utilize these parents as chaperones, organizers, and more! Use them as often as possible. 
  • Take pictures. If possible, take pictures of your students for parents to see and to show your students later as well. These memories are priceless and everyone will appreciate them later. 
  • HAVE FUN. There is no lie a certain level of stress accompanies any given field trip. But when it comes down to it, you’ve done the planning, you’ve prepped the kids, and now it’s time to enjoy the field trip and watch the students learn and grow in a new environment. 
Handcarts and pioneers are a deep part of Utah’s state history. Field trip at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville, Utah.
Touring Utah State University’s campus

Field trips can be incredibly rewarding if they are done correctly. Students can learn and grow outside of the classroom and it can give them the hands-on experience they need to understand how the world works around them. Gone are the days of passive learning where we sit in desks and copy notes. Now is the time for active learning and putting understanding into the hands of the students. 

What are your best field trip tips that you would add to this list? 

The Conclusion Of My MBTI Research: My Learning Summarized

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

In the last few months, I have analyzed all 16 Meyers Briggs personality types. Last week I wrote my 16th post in the series, the final personality type explained. Seeing my research come to an end was sad for me because I’ve dedicated so much time and interest in the subject. A few takeaways I ended  with were this: 

Figuring out student’s personality types can be hard and time-consuming, but also incredibly awarding if you’re willing to put in the work. 

You don’t necessarily need to know their MBTI personality type to know them better. Start with identifying introverts and extroverts and using that information to guide your teaching. Move on to identifying sensing versus intuitive students and then use that as well. 

Students can be aware of MBTI types as well to help them interact with other teachers and peers. 

When comparing personality types, they can be very similar and vastly different at the same time. 

There are not necessarily pros and cons to a personality type, just differences in how we think and who we are. 

Jane Kise has done extensive research on MBTI in the classroom. If I cannot convince you how beneficial is it, maybe she can with her TedTalk. Notice that she doesn’t find conclusive evidence by the majority of students acting and reacting in certain ways, but because every single student of the same personality type has the same actions. 

In the future, look for a post with links to each of the personality types to learn more about how to use your knowledge of MBTI in the classroom. Until then, share with me! How has your knowledge of MBTI helped you in your classroom? 

featured image: thedailybeast.com


The Power of Authentic Praise in the Classroom: My Personal Experience

I had a student once, you know the student. The one that pushes buttons, tests boundaries, and always seems to say just the right things to upset you. He was difficult to have in the classroom and a challenge for every teacher, resource aid, and adult that walked the halls of the school. In my attempt to reach this student and use him as a powerful player in the classroom, not a distraction, I found research on praising in a positive, genuine way and the impact it can have on students. 

In short, I found in my research that we should be praising students genuinely, immediately, unexpectedly, and both publicly and privately. It should also be honing in on your own feelings, not said in a general sense. For example, instead of saying, “Good job on your book report” if you phrase it more in a sense of, “I was really impressed by your book report, I can see how hard you worked on it.” it will come across as more personal and elicit more feelings of accomplishment in the student. After coming forward with these findings, I was ready to apply them in my classroom with not only my difficult student but all of my students. 

It started slowly, I gave authentic, specific praise as often as possible, but whole class and individual students. However, I found that it was harder to give this type of praise to the harder students that didn’t seem to naturally follow directions like the rest of the class. 

One day, my particularly hard student (we’ll call him Johnny) was having an especially rough day. On the way out to recess, I saw him shove a notebook I had never seen before into his desk. “Hey Johnny, can I see that really fast?” Instantly he was defensive and hesitant because he was expecting to be reprimanded for it. I reassured him he wasn’t in trouble and just wanted to take a peek at something I found interesting on the cover. 

Right away I saw incredible artwork cover the front. I flipped through a few pages and found sheets and sheets of dedicated time and effort. My initial thought was that if he can spend this much time creating something like this, why isn’t he spending five minutes on his math homework? But then I had to change my thinking. 

“Oh, Johnny. This is absolutely outstanding! Did you create this all on your own? I love the attention to detail you gave this drawing.” 

He instantly was quiet and his cheeks red with embarrassment. I could tell fairly fast that this type of praise was not common for him, he wasn’t sure how to handle it. I knew it was something that needed to become more and more common with my speaking not only to him, but again, every single student I came in contact with. 

I started putting in extra effort into praising my students in an authentic way and started seeing a difference in my students. 

They started trying a little harder. 

They saw the hard work they were putting forth too. 

They started complimenting their peers and even myself in the same way.

Our classroom became an even more enjoyable, positive place. And on top of that, my little Johnny had a different attitude about learning and school in general. He sought to receive praise in his hard work. Don’t get me wrong, we still had struggles and I worked hard to motivate him the rest of the time! But deep down he truly did try to find that encouragement to keep going. He was easier to understand, and I truly found happiness in his drawings, especially when he would create something specifically for me! 

Ideally what I took away from this was that a little more effort in praise can go a long way if we take the time. 

Teaching The Boundary Pushers- ISTP Personality Type

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Do you have a wandering student that struggles with keeping boundaries? They are confident and realistic in their thinking and learning. This personality type could be ISTP. Although, according to statistics, there is a small chance to have a student with this type in your classroom, ISTPs only make up 5% of the population, making it a lesser common personality type. 

Introverted
Sensing 
Thinking 
Perceiving

Being introverted, they keep to themselves. The way they process information is in a personal way, using all of their senses. They need hands-on manipulatives to sit and work with while they quickly take in the information. Often working in groups or even with a partner can feel stifling to them because they don’t want to be limited by other’s thinking. They never want to discuss topics with peers, they want to answer questions as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

The sensing side of them thrives on using all of their senses to learn. Worksheets and procedural learning are difficult for them to use to understand concepts. In fact, ISTP students are commonly known for having a difficult time excelling in school and are the least likely to continue education beyond high school. 

School systems are built around extroverted, intuitive personality types, which are students who engage with others, work in collaborating groups, and learn in a procedural way instead of learning using hands-on techniques. While learning in a personal setting with hands-on manipulatives is becoming more and more common, it is still not ideal for this personality type to learn in typical schools. A study was conducted asking ISTP types what type of school they preferred. Trade school came in first place with public or private schools receiving very few votes. 

So how can we help these students be more successful? First, be aware of their needs. Give them the independent study time they need, as much as you can feasibly do with the collaboration-driven schools that we are in now. Also at the same time, teach them ways to cope with learning in groups and speaking with peers on learning topics. Provide them with learning that uses all of their senses, and find a balance with their resistance to structure and boundaries. And obviously the most important, just know who they are and be in tune with what they need. That’s the best thing you can do for any of your students. 

How do you keep respectful boundaries with your students who resist them?