Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Students Helping Students

While teaching a difficult concept in math, I can explain how to do it ten different ways and still be met with looks of confusion by some students.

I can go over the "why" behind the way to do it, and heads still shake.

But if a friend or classmate offers up help, the solution becomes clearer.

Kids just have a different way of explaining things in a way that makes sense to one another. Maybe it removes the intimidation factor of working with an adult, versus someone your own age.

I don't know, but I'm grateful when it happens.

Today, my students showed me just how willing they are to work together to make sure everyone learns.

It was a proud teacher moment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

30 Second Share: Learning About Your Students

Every Monday morning, right after I finish attendance and lunch count, we have a weekly tradition that has proven to be invaluable to me. I call it the "30 Second Share."

Basically, the way it works is we go around the classroom and each student shares one thing from their weekend. It takes about five minutes (shares rarely take 30 seconds), yet provides me so much information that I might not get another way.

Through the 30 Second Share, I've learned more about my students' lives outside school and about what's going on at home. Things like what they do (or don't do) on the weekends, their hobbies and interests, what they like to do for fun. I can then use this information in other areas of our learning day, such as when I recommend a book or when I make up a word problem in math.

But the 30 Second Share also gives me valuable insight into any trouble that might be brewing. Maybe someone is sick, a parent is away for awhile or a pet died over the weekend. I can make a note to check in with this student later in the day or week to see how things are going.

I also share something about my weekend during the 30 Second Share. The students love this! I feel sharing about my life helps build the connection I have with my students. They know me as a person, as well as their teacher.

Building connections with our students is one of the most important things we can do in the classroom. This short five minute activity every week is a small time investment to help make this happen. I think this graphic pretty much sums it up:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Another Blog?

In 2013, I began a teaching blog called Mrs. Laffin's Laughings. I would blog here several times a week, writing about the lessons and activities we were doing in my 4th grade classroom. I "met" a lot of other teacher bloggers, learned how beneficial it is to reflect on my teaching practice in writing, and came across some great ideas that I could use in my own classroom.

Then in 2014, I felt the call to expand the things I wrote about beyond my classroom. I started Sweet Writing Life as a place where I could reflect on more personal things -- my family, my goals, my hobbies, my writing, my thoughts, and more. As time passed, I began publishing ALL of my thinking at Sweet Writing Life, including my teaching ideas, pretty much ending my time with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings.

Now two years later, I feel the need to begin a new chapter in my writing life where I can once again blog about my classroom and teaching philosophies. I am teaching a new grade level and have learned so much more about teaching and education that I feel these thoughts need a new space, separate from my other thoughts on writing and life.

Why not go back to Mrs. Laffin's Laughings? Because after starting Sweet Writing Life, I began to notice that each blog drew a different kind of audience.  Mrs. Laffin's Laughings ran in a circle with other teaching blogs written by teacherpreneurs who spent many of their posts promoting their Teacher Pay Teacher products. I did that for awhile, but it got old for me. I wanted to serve the educators who took their valuable time to read my posts instead of trying to sell them something. I felt that my teaching ideas and blogging needed a fresh start.

Hence, Sweet Teaching Life was born.

So, this is the place where I will be sharing my classroom teaching thoughts while my other writing can still be found at Sweet Writing Life.

I hope you can find something in either of these places that creates a spark within you. If you like one of my ideas and try it yourself, great! I'd love to hear about it. Try something and it didn't quite work? Let's brainstorm some solutions. I become a better educator through the connections I make with other educators. (You can reach me by leaving a comment on a blog post or emailing me directly at

I would love to connect with you!