Making Habits Happen in the Classroom

I'm lucky to be at a school where they really support the social and emotional learning just as much as the academic learning that goes on in our classrooms. We have a lot of things on our plate as educators- standards, assessments, high stakes testing, pacing,......  But as many have said, the mental and emotional learning IS the plate. We can not pile on these other things if we are not taking care of our students social and emotional needs. That would be like bringing a paper plate that has gone through the dishwasher to a picnic with greasy chicken and baked beans on the menu... it'll just make a mess and lunch would end up in our laps.


At our school, we have a mixture of behavior/emotional supports to help our students learn how to be respectful, build social competence with their peers and adults, and express their feelings and emotions in healthy ways. We follow the common Responsive Classroom practices, have PBIS school wide incentives, use the Olweus Anti-Bullying program, and are a Welcoming School (check out their website if you are unaware of what that means). Even with all of these awesome supports in place, sometimes I still need a little extra something.

I wanted to give my students something new, something they haven't heard from kindergarten to give them purpose again. They've been hearing, "Show your CARES," constantly (which is an acronym from RC). I wanted to give them new language and a new focus to help them get to the next level.

Enter the Leader in Me website.

I would love to be in a school where this was actually adopted and used throughout, however, I'm starting small by using their website to help me make some small changes. I also found some great resources from others through Pinterest to help guide me with pictures books to use in my classroom to introduce some of the habits.

For most of these, we read a book or two and discussed what that habit really meant. We also discuss the "I-statements" for each one to help students understand what that might look like in our classroom. Before you know it, I have students who are reciting the "mantras" throughout the day.

Heck. I even had students make up their own call and response using the habits. Are you familiar with the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons? Well students changed the lyrics to "Be Proactive" instead of Radioactive. Now, when I want their attention, I sing the, "Whoooa Whoooa"s and they say back, "Be proactive, be proactive." I kid you not- they came up with that all on their own. What I'm getting at is that these simple posters and I-statements began to give my students the language on what it meant to work towards being a leader.



And although those books and statements were awesome to introduce the habits to my students, I found that integrating it into our learning and daily work has had the biggest effect.


We do a lot of math talk during our math lessons. I really wanted to have all students share ideas and listen to ideas before solving a problem and to work together. This is a hard skills for kids across the spectrum- I've got my quiet souls who are very comfortable with simply sitting and listening, I've got my quiet souls who want to talk, but struggle with asserting themselves, and I've got my loud voices who always talk first and love to share.

So after I gave them a problem to work on during math in their daily groups (which I change often to make sure everyone works with everyone), I focused in on what I heard and what I saw in terms to the two habits we were focusing on during that time. After the problem was done and discussed, I took a survey to ask how many students listened to someone else's idea, how many students shared an idea, and how many students thought that everyone in the group balanced the two. We saw throughout the math lesson that as it went on, more people were sharing and feeling like the talking space was being shared.

One major success was with one student who flat out told me he did not like working with groups because he likes to "go fast." However, this student also sometimes makes sloppy mistakes. I coached him on how he could get others involved by questioning. He latched onto that and came up with some stellar questions to get other involved and to help others explain their thinking. I was really quite amazed at the sophistication he brought to his group and the smile that was on his face while he assumed the "teacher" role, as we talked that when I teach them, I often ask questions more than just telling answers... that's what teachers do!

I've been really impressed with the level of our group work and how students are really thinking about these habits throughout our learning time. I'm seeing strong voices speak up in a way to encourage others to share. I'm seeing quiet voices begin to see value in their comments and practicing the language and vocabulary in the lesson which is so essential to their learning. And even better, I'm doing less redirecting and a lot more reinforcing during group work time while my students are redirecting themselves and staying on task.

What do you use to help students build the necessary social skills?


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Bump Morphology: Practicing Prefixes and Suffixes

I love finding multiple purposes for an object. I especially love office supply objects. So whenever I can find a useful way to include office supplies into our learning, I get a bit giddy in the gills and slap my head saying, "Why didn't I do this earlier??"

I've been focusing a lot on academic language and vocabulary in my classroom this year. Specifically, I've incorporated a bit more of morphology into our day in some way. To reinforce some of our learning, I created some centers (based off of needs I saw pop up in my room in particular). Today, I'm sharing about....

Bump Morphology

I've been living under a rock. I just learned about this game. And now I want to create millions and millions of Bump games!

We learned a new prefix and suffix each week as a part of our weekly spelling. I noticed that students needed more time to work with the meaning of these prefixes and to stretch their vocabulary beyond the words we used during our introduction of these affixes. So I made a Bump to reinforce the 6 prefixes and 6 suffixes that we'd been practicing.


What office supplies did I use to make this gem? 

  • 2 page protectors
  • paper clip
  • pencil
  • bronze brads
The paper clip and pencils make the spinners possible. I know many of you already use that (as I have too in the past). The page protectors are connected with the bronze brads and keeps the spinner and game board connected. However, when we you are done and need to store it, they fold right up for easy storage in a file folder or drawer!

You'll also need other little "markers" for the game and the game board itself. You could find your own office supplies for the markers such as erasers, but since I am a teacher, I had access to other things such as unifix cubes.

Here's how to play for those of you who are also new to this genius game (with our game boards in mind):

  1. Player spins the spinner (they can choose which one)
  2. Whatever it lands on, they have to find a box on the game board that matches
  3. If they can define what the word means by using their knowledge of the prefix or suffix, they place their colored cube on that square
  4. Next player repeats.

Here's where it gets interesting

  1. If the other player spins and lands on the same prefix or suffix that you have a piece on... and they want it... they can BUMP your cube off and claim it as their own! There's only one way to protect your piece and its placement...
  2. Lock it! In order to lock your piece in a certain box, you'll need to land on the same prefix or suffix and do 1 of two things:
    1. Name the part of speech that prefix/suffix creates (ex: -tion turns a verb into a noun)
    2. Use the prefix/suffix + base word in a 7 power sentence correctly
      1. If you do one of these things, you place another of your makers (unifix cubes) on top of your other piece. It is now locked and protected. Whew!
  3. We have different ways you can win as well:
    1. Be the first player to get 5 locked pieces on the board
    2. Be the first player to get 4 pieces in a row (locked or unlocked)

The game boards are also differentiated...

  • One game board is filled with words already that have the prefixes or suffixes from the spinner. This is for students who need to be exposed first to other words that have these prefixes and suffixes.
  • One game board has a few words already given sprinkled among just prefixes and suffixes. This is for students who should be able to generate some of their own words with the given prefixes or suffixes.
  • One game board has just prefixes and suffixes... no words given at all! This is for students who already have a strong vocabulary with these prefixes and suffixes and makes them think on their feet!
This BUMP game reviews the prefixes and suffixes we have learned. I plan on making more of them as we learn more. For now, you can find this first set in my TpT store by clicking on the image below. This version is not editable- sorry! But since I'll be making more, additional affixes will be added later. Since my students already were exposed to these, they used their work and practice in our classroom to help them. If your students haven't learned these yet, you'll need to teach into the prefixes/suffixes first before they play the game. 

The prefixes included in this set are: un, in, re, pre, dis, im
The suffixes included in this set are: ful, less, y, ly, er (as in the person i.e. teacher), ist




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