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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Brag Tag Nuts & Bolts

If you are new to brag tags, I have some nuts and bolts advice that may help you get started.

Ball chain necklaces are my favorite way to adorn my students with brag tags. A lot of teachers use key chains, but I prefer the glow my students emit when they get to wear their brag tag necklaces. Moreover, when we are walking through the halls, the kiddos gather lots of compliments from other teachers, administrators, and support personnel. But the best reinforcement may be the thumbs up other students give them.

A 24 inch necklace should be fine for any elementary student. I have found them for as low as $.50 each on the internet. Some teachers buy the chain by the spool, cutting it to their desired length. I'm not a fan of this as it is labor intensive and time consuming. You also have to buy the connectors separately and add them to the necklaces. It's about time, teachers! And time is precious.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is essential that you add each child's name to the necklace. You can do this by giving them a name tag to put on their necklace. It is simply inevitable that one or more necklaces will eventually end up on the floor. The name tag will settle any disputes about ownership.

In the same vein, it is advisable to label the space where the necklaces hang. Many teachers devote a bulletin board to this purpose. As a huge fan of interactive bulletin boards, I am loathe to sacrifice a board to this purpose. Using command hooks, I hang the necklaces under the front board. 

The hooks are labeled with each student's number using a label maker. This allows me to use the hooks for several years without having to redo the display. (Remember, it's about time, teachers!The real estate under the front board is pretty much wasted, so hanging the necklaces there seems like a good use for it. Furthermore, I teach small groups near that area. My proximity prevents students from fondling the necklaces, which are, of course, very attractive to them.  

I do NOT laminate my brag tags. Just printing them and cutting them out is time consuming enough. Rather, I print them on cardstock. So far, they have been sufficiently durable without lamination. I encourage my students to write their names on the back of each tag they earn in case one tears away from the necklace. (Another reason to hang them where they will attract a little less attention.) You can call me Viola Swamp, but I have a strict rule that lost or destroyed tags will not be replaced. Who has time to deal with all that drama???? 

I will, however, supply adhesive reinforcement rings so that students can repair their tags. So, another advantage of not laminating the tags is that students can write their name on the back. Thus any lost tag can be more readily returned to its owner.
We all struggle with printing costs, especially when using color ink. I'm unwilling to avoid all color printing since it adds so much panache to the tags. However, I print a good supply using the gray scale tags and colored cardstock. The children seem equally happy with either type of tag. 

Once again, because it's about time, teachers, I enlist the help of others in cutting out and punching holes in the brag tags.  If I choose to send some home to helpful parents who are willing to donate their time, I always include sharp scissors, a hole punch, and ziplock bags in which to return them.  I have a special canvas bag in which students carry all of the supplies back and forth.  Of course, it is never sent home without first contacting the parent to ensure that this task is suitable to their time constraints. I have also enlisted the help of upper elementary students who may wish to help when they have time, and have had teachers use this as a reward for students who need extra encouragement from their favorite primary teacher.  :)

Finally, you will need a storage system that keeps the brag tags organized and handy. My tags are 1 3/8" x 2" so they just fit in this storage chest (that is intended for nuts and bolts). Again using my handy, dandy label maker, I am labeling each drawer with the tags it contains.   

Do you have any other tips for those considering using brag tags?

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot. -- Michael Altshuler

Monday, August 31, 2015

Brag Tags

Since I discovered brag tags, my life as a teacher has taken a positive trajectory that I could never have envisioned.  Using them in conjunction with a behavior clip chart has proven to be epic!

I created forest friends brag tags to compliment my forest friends clip chartThere are 3 categories of tags: behavior, academics, and events. Because the primary purpose is to reward positive behavior, the majority are behavior brag tags. 

Academic brag tags are included to encourage and reward hard work and scholastic success. 

Event brag tags recognize just a few events that are important to children. 

Common holidays are not included because I feel awarding brag tags for them just undermines the power of the system. You don't earn a holiday, after all. I included 100th day because it is such a milestone for primary grade children.  Also included are tags for birthdays, 1/2 birthdays (as a summer birthday girl, I have very strong feelings about including summer birthdays), losing a tooth at school, student of the week, and surviving testing.

Every student gets a ball chain necklace that hangs in the classroom. The day I introduce the behavior chart and brag tags, I have each student add a forest ranger badge to the necklace so there is no question about necklace ownership. To get things started, I also give everyone a brag tag to start their collection. It welcomes them to the forest.

Initially, it is important to catch the kiddos being good. Because everyone likes instant gratification, I will interrupt everything to heap praise, award a brag tag, and invite the recipient to move his/her badge up on the clip chart.  

Obviously, this practice cannot continue.  So I begin weaning the class by waiting to handout brag tags until we are in a transition period, such as before lunch, after a specials class, after recess, before dismissal, ... Eventually, brag tags are given out only before dismissal. By second semester, we hold an awards ceremony on Friday mornings.  Then the students can wear their necklaces all day. Well, not ALL day. Necklaces cannot be worn to recess, P.E., or lunch. EVER. 

So, what do we do with the necklaces the other 4 days of the week? They are on display in our classroom. My favorite place to display them is at the front of the room under the white board. That's unused real estate otherwise. Moreover, the necklaces are where everyone can see them and where students are least likely to fondle them. (I teach small groups at the front of the class and it's all about proximity!)

Join me next time for some nuts and bolts info about brag tags.

You may like these other forest friends products:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Clip Chart + Brag Tags = Happy Class

Do you use a behavior clip chart in your classroom? I have just personalized my behavior plan with a clip chart and brag tags to compliment my Forest Friends classroom theme. And I just have to share it with you.

All of the students will start each day on the middle sign, "On the right trail." Each one will have a Forest Ranger badge to clip to that sign.   

Then, depending on the choices they make, their badges may move. Those making good choices will move up to "Caught being good." Continuing to make good choices can elevate them to "Flying high" or even "Soaring with the eagles."

Conversely, those who make poor choices may move down to "Taking the wrong path." More poor choices will earn them a spot on "Danger Ahead! Turn Around!"  Finally, they may find themselves "Lost in the woods," and in need of parent contact to find their way back.  

Behavior clip charts are sooooo much better than treasure chests, in my opinion.  Not only does a chart save me from buying all that loot, but it moves the students closer to finding intrinsic motivation.

Couple the behavior chart with brag tags, and you will have a good chance of achieving classroom bliss!

I'll talk about brag tags in my next post. In the meantime, you may want to check out my clip chart for your own classroom.

Other forest friends products you may like:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Back to School FLASH FREEBIE!!!!!

It's about time, teachers, for a ---

I am offering Back to School Poetry Possibilities for FREE! But just for today, 8/23/15. 

This is a collection of 20 poems about going back to school and the changes associated with autumn.  Each poem is accompanied by a teaching point about poetry. But, that's not all! Also included are activities, skill lessons, and writing prompts. These "possibilities" for teaching through poetry range from reading skills (phonics, parts of speech, syllables,...) to writing prompts (text innovations, types of poetry,...) to math activities (graphing, ordinal numbers,...). This product even includes a stand-alone literacy center:

If all of that is not enough, this product is appropriate for ALL elementary grade levels. As the literacy coach for my building, I developed this unit in response to my teachers' request for help in teaching with poetry. Thus, the skills and activities encompass a broad range of levels. Just choose the possibilities that are appropriate to the age and stage of your students.  

This offer expires at 10 p.m. CDT. Grab it while you can! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's Time to Say Goodbye

As a new school year dawns, young children, parents, and teachers are faced with a dilemma: saying goodbye.  Every parent has encountered the tears and heart-wrenching pleas.  Every teacher of young children has ached for the children and parents.  (Separation anxiety works both ways; parents cry, too.)  And, as a teacher with many years of experience in early childhood education, I would like to offer a suggestion for easing this transition...

...establish a transition tradition.

Young children thrive on routine.  They find comfort in being able to predict the events of the day.  They find reassurance in repetitive, positive procedures.  Thus, teachers can help ease these transitions by encouraging parents and children to establish a parting protocol. One transition tool is teaching children and care-givers to give a quick, fun, light-hearted good-bye.

Most people are familiar with these:

In my quest to establish a forest friends classroom, I challenged myself to create such sayings using forest animals.  Here's a sampling:

At our parent information meeting before school starts, I plan to have this set of posters displayed near the door.  Drawing the parents' attention to them, I will encourage them, along with their children, to select a pair of favorite phrases for their farewells. In my experience, the tearful transitions will quickly give way to smiling sendoffs.

Forest Friends' Farewells are currently on sale on TPT. This product includes 15 colorful posters. They are part of my Forest Friends collection.

You may be interested in my Forest Friends Classroom Theme board on Pinterest.  It is growing daily with ideas for decor, crafts, centers, and more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Read All About It

Ever since my trip to Ikea, I've been obsessed with turning my classroom into a forest filled with animal friends.  Recently, I decided to cull my classroom library for Forest Friends books. Here are some great titles that I recommend:
Picture books
  • Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett
  • The Bear Books series by Karma Wilson (8 books) 
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Night Tree by Eve Bunting (Christmas theme) 
  • A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson
  • Moose Tracks! by Karma Wilson
  • Where's My Teddy? by Jez Alborough
  • All The Baby Animals In The Woods by Emily Thomson
  • In the Forest (Look Once, Look Again) by David M. Schwartz
  • Looking Closely through the Forest by Frank Serafini
  • Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle
  • Don't Wake Up the Bear! by Marjorie Dennis Murray
  • How Do You Sleep? by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud
  • A Picture Book of Forest Animals by Joanne Gise
  • The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
  • Who's in the Forest? by Phyllis Gershator
  • Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek by Marianne Berkes
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  • What Forest Knows by George Ella Lyon
  • The Big Storm: A Very Soggy Counting Book by Nancy Tafuri
  • Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan
  • Nature Trails: In the Woods (Maurice Pledger Nature Trails) by Maurice Pledger
  • In the Forest: A Nature Trail Book (Maurice Pledger Nature Trails) by Maurice Pledge 
  • Hiding in the Woods: A Nature Trail Book (Maurice Pledger Nature Trails)by Maurice Pledger 
  • The Legend of the Beaver's Tail by Stephanie Shaw

Chapter books 

  • The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint
  • Tales from Dimwood Forest by Avi (series) 
  • American Woodland Tales by Jean Craighead George (series) 
  • A Cabin By The Lake by Debi S. Nelson
  • Woodland Village Stories (Animal Mischief) (Volume 2) by Peter Blight 
  • A Badger's Tale by Mike Tibbetts

I'd love to add to my Forest Friends library. What books do you recommend?

Check out these Forest Friends products: