Monday, July 28, 2014

Back to School Fun and Best Things About Summer FREEBIE!

I feel like I have blogged about it a bunch of times, but the feelings of back to school time are so tough to pinpoint.  There is the eagerness to learn all about that next class and the kind of crew it will be, the anticipation of meeting any new team or staff members, the thrill of finding the best deals on new school supplies, the dread nervousness with beginning of the year meetings, the getting back into any routine with our own kiddos, and the sleeplessness of the night before that very first day!  Yikes! How teachers keep all of this in check ALWAYS impresses me!

I can't control the majority of those emotions, but I can make the first day a little easier on you.  While running this morning sans my littlest, I had all of these ideas running through my brain.  I LOVE when that happens.  My focus was not on finding as many trucks during our 4-miler at 6:15AM, instead I could just get lost in my music and thoughts.  I don't have these runs often because my littlest is often ready to hit the ground running at 5:30AM.  Sweet babe...most days!

My littlest running buddy!

So today I was thinking about that first day and how CRAZY OVERWHELMING energizing it is to be a teacher.  All of these new students are arriving into your classroom for the first time ever, and you need to teach them every rule, procedure, and expectation.  To those kiddos it is daunting!  In addition, you need to have your classroom and hallway decorated because parents and administrators will be heading in your direction very soon!  Yikes, again!

So...I came up with this FREEBIE...

I am always looking for the perfect activity to welcome my students back to school on that very first day.   Due to the need to share rules and procedures, I want to allow them some time to have FUN! I need something engaging, but something that can be on display is always in my mind as well. I usually put up a fabric bulletin board with the title ‘Welcome Back to School, 6th Graders!” On the first day, I take each student’s picture and then display it on the bulletin board. It isn’t especially exciting, but it gets student faces displayed.  Most 6th graders LOVE to see their picture shared. After some brainstorming, I think this interactive “The Top 10 Best Things About My Summer” is even better! I came up with this interactive Back to School resource to:

• get my students reflecting on their summer
• engage them in a fun “Who’s Who?” activity
• utilize as a hallway display for students have fun with and for visitors to enjoy

Directions for use:
1. Copy The Top 10 Best Things About My Summer interactive page and I am page.
2. As a whole class, brainstorm different activities that people may have enjoyed in the summer.
3. Allow students time to create, reflect, color, and record what they did on their interactive page.
4. I have them glue the interactive page to a sheet of yellow legal pad paper because of the color and cheap cost.
5. As students are working, snap a picture of each student individually.
6. Using glue sticks, model for students how to put their display together.
7. Before displaying, share each student’s “Top 10” and allow students to infer which student the list belongs to.
8. Display on a bulletin board in the classroom or jazz up your hallway.
9. Don’t forget to do one for yourself. Students LOVE learning about their teacher and it is the perfect model.

1. Copies of interactive pages, legal pad/notebook paper, and photograph
2. Glue stick
3. Colored pencils
4. Pencil/pen

Volia!  Decor' and the perfect ice breaker activity to help students get to know one another.

One last learning tool that will make your first week very easy is this...

This 19-page CCSS Fun Pack includes:
-an 8-page, 13-character script
-reader response questions
-context clue word work
-compare and contrast interactive notebook page
-a journal prompt for post-reading reflection
-a summary strategy interactive notebook page

Utilize this one day or over a period of a week as you enhance essential reading literature skills. Also, this is perfect to utilize with a substitute teacher as clear directions are provided for immediate implementation.

Summary of realistic fiction story:
The students at Sharpland Intermediate School are greeted by a police car on their first day of school. It turns out that a thief made off with a number of learning resources after Meet the Teacher Night. The students are frustrated about missing out on learning, so they come up with a plan to re-purchase the stolen goods.
I would love to hear what you think and I'd love for you to share any pics of your ice breakers or yor students performing.  Best of luck this year!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tips to Begin the Year: Music, Procedures, and LESSON IDEAS

Ready for another school year?  Here are a few tips and tricks to get started....

Do you play music in your classroom?  Music is an essential in so many aspects of my life, but especially in my work with students!  I have blogged about it before, but here are some ideas for your classroom playlist for the year...
Brain Break Songs for the Classroom-each song on this list has only lyrics that are appropriate for the classroom!  These are a few of my old and new favorites. 

A Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay
Find You by Zedd
Sweet Disposition by Temper Trap
Pompeii by Bastille
Rude by Magic
Wake Me Up by Avicii
Team by Lorde
Tennis Court by Lorde
It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday (yes, the old Boys 2 Men song) by Jason Mraz
Girls Chase Boys by Ingrid Michaelson
Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson
Count On Me by Mat Kearney
Raging Fire by Phillip Phillips
Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips
Stop This Train by John Mayer
Never Know by Jack Johnson
Umbrella by Marie Digby
Wishing Heart by Lisa Loeb

Silent Working Music-I found this gem on Rhapsody, but I have added the link on Amazon in case you want to make the purchase. I am obsessed with finding the perfect music while my students are working.  I find that if they know the words, some can still work, but others get distracted from the singing.  This is all instrumental, which is ideal for those that just like to have a little background noise to enhance concentration.  Also, I find that playing music in the background while I am working with small groups tends to keep the noise level down if students are also working in partners or small groups.

Procedures:  Here is a peek at how I give parents and students an idea of what to expect on our 6th grade team.  I find that the first day is LOADED with procedures that help the students learn all about how the classroom is run and what it is like to be a 6th grader.  It is a fun day, but also when where routines are established and students realize how they will function in this exciting grade.  This is an "Ins and Outs" tool that I was inspired by my son's kindergarten teacher to create to share a ton of information.  In addition, we do an interest inventory that gets students up and socializing.  CHAMPs is utilized in our building, but by 6th grade except for going over a few small differences, the students are already familiar, so there is no need to go over every component of that behavior management plan.

Lesson Ideas:  I like to get the year off to a consistent start, so by the second day we are doing legitimate work that would be completed any other day of the school year.  Here are a few tools I have created and utilized with my students in order to engage them from the first week of school.

We begin our writing notebooks right away in the first week of the year.  The second day is ideal so that the students can get an understanding that we will be writing on a consistent basis.  I begin with the first journal prompt of the week in order to gauge where my students currently are as thinkers and writers.  The prompt is posted, the students copy the prompt, I give some basic directions, and the students begin writing.  It is after this first writing that those willing-share what they have written.  I also collect the journals, which are composition notebooks or 1/2 inch binders with filler paper, and respond to their work.  I will seek out a few students that I will check with first, but I will take a picture of their response and post it so that others can see a sample of my expectations as a 6th grade writer. 

Ashley organizing her binder and getting ready to write.

Writing is an essential component in our students' work with common core.  Because I struggled to find an editing tool that I could use with my students in just minutes a day to improve their writing, I created this to use as a morning starter.  Simply post the sentence on your SMART board, have students copy the sentence into their writer's notebook, edit te sentence with editing marks, copy correctly fixing all errors, and finally go over as a whole group.  I even have students volunteer to come up to the board to facilitate the corrections.  The rest of the class participates as they are called upon by the student facilitator.

I utilize reader's theater scripts with my students on a consistent basis because they are the PERFECT tool to enhance fluency, work on comprehension, and my students LOVE to perform.  This is the perfect tried and true script to share with students in those first days of the year.  It is a high-interest read that will engage your students, as well as begin your work with common core. With comprehension questions, context clue word work, a summary organizer, and clear directions for implementation, your students won't even realize they are "doing work."

Students in action performing the script.
I would love any tips and tricks you find useful for getting ready for your school year!

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