Thursday, December 28, 2017

Jumpstart Your Second Semester Now

Two quarters of the school year are gone; two more to go! Make the second half of your year your best ever. Right now, while you are on vacation and everything is calm, prepare to have your best semester ever. Remember, success comes from what you focus on!

Set your focus on what you want to see happen in the classroom-maybe something that didn't go the way you dreamed, but now you are ready to see that happen. Brainstorm ideas on how to change things, or, if the year is great, how to maintain everything. List everything you can think of and then, check out Pinterest and see if you can find more ideas. It can even be helpful to ask help from others-even those outside the teaching profession. Sometimes a pair of outside eyes can offer fresh ideas.

Now, grab an 8x11 1/2 or large piece of cardstock and create a focus board. Add ideas that can help you keep your focus on solving issues in your classroom. Be inspirational. Be encouraging. Be direct. Remind yourself of the goal and how you expect to address it. Include scripture. Add a new focus board for each individual goal.

Because they are smaller and on cardstock, you can frame them or simply add them to your plan book. When you find yourself getting off track, simply spend time focusing on the board.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jumping the Hurdle of the Small P.E. Budget

I teach in a small school with a small budget for physical education resources. In planning the p.e. program for this year, I decided that I wanted to have a track program. It would give my kids something to strive for without high levels of competition or hitting anyone with a ball. Hurdles are so fun, and yet, too expensive for me to buy. I have a wide range of physical sizes in my room with students from fifth to eighth-grade. I decided that my students deserved to have a chance to see what they could do. Therefore, I decided to make hurdles for them.

It all began with a trip to Home Depot. These are the supplies I bought there:

These are the tools I purchased the first day. I included 10 foot sections of 1/2-inch PVC pipe, a bag of 1/2-inch PVC pipe elbows, and a cutting tool. I already had the tape measure and the Sharpie! The only thing I have gone back and purchased (besides more pipe and elbows) is the glue. 

The first thing I did was measure out the pipe. I decided to make various sizes because-as I said earlier-my kids are various sizes. Each hurdle required 6 pieces of pipe and six elbows. I cut one set of pipes to equal 16 inches. One set equaled 20 inches and, after I went back to the store, I cut another set for 30 inches. (Thirty inches is the standard size for middle school hurdles. 

After the pieces were cut, I fit them together. 

After I fitted them together and made them square, I marked them with a Sharpie so they could be glued together and still be square. They need to be glued because they come apart when someone catches the edge with their shoe. (Yes, we learned this the hard way!)

When they were finished, this is what it looked like:

The first time through, I had two sizes. Everyone was able to jump over both of them.  I went home and made one ten inches higher. The taller students cleared it well, too!

This is what it looked like when they were used:

This is such an easy thing to make and yet, the student involvement was incredibly high! 

We will also be having relay races. The relay batons? Diving sticks I bought on sale at the end of summer. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

STEM K-8 style

At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, we decided to have an all-school STEM day every week.  We wanted have multi-grade groups work together on different projects. We thought it would be great to enhance our "community" feel by having the kids spend time together in an organized, educational program. Because I have a huge amount of pins on my Pinterest pages, I knew that what we needed was just a click and search away. Off to one of my STEM pages (I have two) I went and started picking out activities that would work well with the broad range of ages. I picked out a few fun activities, divided the kids up in mult-age groups and collected my supplies. After a talk with my older students about including the little ones in everything, we were ready to go.

Because we get out early on Fridays, we decided the last hour and a half would be the perfect time for our trial.  I chose to start with activities that involved craft sticks because I already had a lot of them.  We put all the supplies, craft sticks, rubberbands, plastic spoons and pompoms in plastic bags-one bag per group.

The first act of the first day was to chose groups, placing the younger students with the older students. Then, we passed out packages for each group. This day was capapault day!

Intense work and fun combined to make the first day a huge success. As the leader, I came away with a realization that being totally prepared was absolutely a must. Thirty-three kids in one room takes patience and total-did I mention total- organization.

We met in the gym. Expectations for the project were given and the kids were allowed to go off to a spot anywhere in the room that there was no group. They spent the next hour figuring out how to build a catapault and then had fun using them. The catapaults were refined so they could shoot farther, higher and-well, just better.

This is what it looks like:

Notice how focused they are as they work. To group, we drew names and these two gentlemen were excited to get to work together. Not everyone was placed with their best friends, but they all had a wonderful experience. Friendships also developed between the older and younger students that were stronger than ever.

The hardest part was getting them to realize that, even though we were in the gym, they could not run and scream when they needed to move about, but they eventually figured it out with a little help from the teachers. The easiest part was keeping them involved once it began. They made their capapaults and then we used them to aim at targets. We also tested them to see whose catapault would shoot the ammuntion the farthest. The day ended well; the kids were excited to do it again the next week.

When we went back to our room for dismissal, there were happy smiled everywhere. We decided the activity was a definite keeper.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Start 2017 with a Bang

A great start is all about being ready! Take a few hours from your vacation-but only a few-and plan the first week down to the smallest detail! Here are some of the ways that I plan to get and engage my students.

Engaging the class starts at the beginning of the day and for us, that is worship. Spend a little time to find a worship story that is more than words from a book. Give them something that your kids will watch and think about at the same time. Interactive worships are also a great way to start the day. I have had students beg their parents to get them to school on time because they did not want to miss worship!

Here is one of the worships I have planned for when I get back to school:

The first one is called "One Sin" and is found at a website called Mad About Jesus. You will need three air-filled balloons and one water-filled balloon. You will also need a candle, match and fire extinguisher or bucket of water. Light the candle when you are ready to start.

Ask the kids to define the word 'perfect' and come to the conclusion that only God is perfect Talk about how sin separates us from God. Ask three kids to name a sin. Put an air-filled balloon over the fire each time a sin is named and let the balloon pop. Ask the kids ask you to help them "fix" the balloons. Once they come to the conclusion that there is nothing they can do, bring out the last balloon.

Talk about how this balloon is just like the others but it has a relationship with Jesus and is filled with His spirit. Talk about how God takes care of those who have a close relationship with Him. Ask a fourth child to name a sin. Hold the balloon over the candle. It should not break.

Discuss why the first three balloons broke but the fourth one did not. Remind them that the balloons represent God's children and that a relationship with God will keep them strong.

Review and practice procedures and rules. Face it, Remembering things from the beginning of the day to the endis hard enough.They have been on vacation for two or three weeks. Remind them about the things that are important in your room.

Start the year with a fun challenge. During math class, we are going to review estimation. Once we have finished the review, I will present them with a large glass jar filled with candy. Students will have one week to try to estimate how many candies are in the jar. (I shall count them as I fill it.) The student that comes closest to the right number without going over will get the jar and everything in it! I mentioned it before break after I brought the dollar store jar to the classroom, so they are primed and ready.

Turn your students into teachers. On the first day back, I am continuing a Greek and Latin root word unit, but with a twist. This time, I am using a lesson I found on Cinnamon Classroom about word superheros. I have chosen "rupt" as an example I will do with my class. Together, we will define it, list words that include it and create a superhero for it using the words from our list.

The next day, after a quick review, each student will be assigned a word to learn that they will define and make a word list for the words. 

They will create a superhero to be shared with the class the following week. They will create their own costume that they will wear when they teach the rest of the class about their own superhero. As they listen to each teacher, they will have to write the meanings of each root and list a few words for it. This is a great activity for any class because so many English words come from the roots. On the Cinnamon Classroom page, you will find free downloads if you want to try it in your room.

There are so many ways you can have your students teach each other. Don't forget about the possibilities of technology, music, skits or booklets. I am choosing to start the second half of the year out with the above activity because it is guaranteed to capture their attention. I can almost hear the buzz in my room already.

Kids love to work together and creating a game is a great team project. One of the things my students will be doing will help us cover more of Africa with more involvement and more fun than we could have reading about them from our book. My first step will be to divide the kids into groups of two-my choice this time.

Students will be devising a lesson about their African country. Then they will create a game that they will be played after the lessons. Teams are required to come up with 35 questions about their country for each game. They will also make up their own rules and game pieces. Once they are done, two days will be spent on lessons and games. Then students will review the games they played using a rubric.

Teach your students a new skill for physical education. We are starting the year off with track and field-I am in a warm state. We will spend four days a week on the new skill. On Fridays, we will play a group game.

I haven't finished all my plans yet, but I hope this will give you a few ideas. Please share ideas you have used in your room. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Park Field Trips

Trips a local park can be a lot of fun and totally educational. We took our entire school, grades K-8, to a park that has a hummingbird trail, a pond and a castle. We had a lot of fun, but we also put in a lot of work.

I had a bit more work than anyone else. I went to the park before the trip. I took pictures of many things around the park. When I made it back to my classroom, I downloaded the pictures and made a different scavenger hunt for each child. As we took a walk through the park, the students would try to find all the things on the list. This made them more active, more attentive as we wound through the trail. The pictures included the life found on the trail as well as man-made items.

Because we are a Christian school, when we were at one of the ramadas on the trail, we had a Bible activity. We stopped and broke up into groups mixing the younger students with the older students. Each group chose a paper with a Bible story written on it. They went off into little groups and planned out their story. They had a lot of fun acting out the different stories and guessing what story each group was sharing.

P.E. was pretty simple. The castle involves climbing, sliding, balancing, etc. We watched as the kids did what kids need to do. They chased each other, played hide and seek, pushed each other on swings and other totally unmanuscripted fun.

We went to the river that borders the park. Along the edge, we looked for insects and, when we found them, learned how to respect life, regardless of the form. I did this because we really do not see a lot of insects in our area-outside of gnats, flies, ants and the occasional scorpion. We were able to observe the Burrowing owl habitats.

Follow up activities allow students to write, draw and tell about different things the kids learned while at school the next day. Other activities that we did not get to involved testing the water in the pond, bird watching and comparing what we observed and finding natural habits. Of course, there is always next year!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cute Classroom Theme-based Decorations

I have been teaching for a long time-long enough to have two of my daughters follow me into teaching. I am humbled by their incredible creativity. Each year them send me pictures of what they have done in their room and each year I am totally impressed. I asked permission to share a couple of their ideas with you and, today is that day.

First, there is Grand Central Reading Station.  This is an excellent example of how to make a reading space that kids will want to use.

The train is actually a bookcase. I love all the little details.

Every train station has a bench for waiting. This one is no different, but I do have to say that this one looks a lot more comfortable!

This is a way to keep track of how the kids are doing.

The great Safari decorations were fun to see. Welcome to a classroom where everyone belongs!

The little plastic safari hats add to the pictures, which are actually placemats from Botswana. The African animal borders complete the picture.

Have you ever used a theme to decorate your room? What did you use? I'd love to hear about it!

Pinterest to the Rescue

Teaching in a small, multi-grade, self-contained classroom has a plethora of challenges. Organization is one of the greatest challenges, because I have to keep track of all the assignments for each day. I like to work ahead, but often found myself making the same materials over because I could not find the ones I have already made. I tried the folder method, with a folder for each day. I would take the folder out and it would disappear. It doesn't help that I seem to be in constant motion all day and would carry it off, lay it down and forget where it was or leave it on my desk and cover it with a couple pieces of paper. Then, I was perusing Pinterest when I found what has proven to be my greatest find.

The funny thing was, I was not unfamiliar with the solution; I had just never put the two things together. Plastic drawers that hold 8 x 11 1/2 inch paper saved my day, and maybe, my sanity. I bought two sets of them and used sentence strips to label the first five: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The bottom drawer (there are three drawers in each set) is used for left-overs or for things still too far in the future. It makes keeping track of the work as easy as pie.
The site where I found the ideas was Controlling My Chaos.

My second greatest frustration in my classroom was the bulletin board. I loving having them. I hate changing them. I do not know where I saw this on Pinterest, but I followed a link about bulletin boards. The author suggested putting up a black background because I would go with anything. Last school year, I bought black material and put it on the board. Amazing! First, I love black and how it makes everything pop. Second, it really does go with everything!!! To make it even better, I found chevron borders at Joann's Fabric, in close-out. Check out how my board looks now!
I loved it so much, I used black on the bulletin board in the hall this year!

When I wanted to make a giant class puzzle for the first day of school, the idea was inspired by a link on Pinterest. I went to Have Fun Teaching because I check out most of my links because some don't work. I saw puzzles and thought about a first day of school activity that I had seen on the Internet, though I know not where. I made a giant puzzle by blowing up the puzzle pieces and gave one to each child. They wrote their name on it and decorated it. We put the puzzle together and I put the school and such on extra pieces. We glued the puzzle on to stock board and hung it on our door. Every piece was necessary for a complete classroom!

Our last day of school is totally fun. I look for activities that a school with students from K-8 can enjoy together. Looking at Pinterest, I found several Minute to Win It sites and saved lots of ideas. When it came time to plan the day, I went to my End of the Year Activities board and created our last day plan.

That worked so well, I spent spare summer moments building a new board for Back to School activities. A few days before my wonderful class entered the building, I sat down and used many of the ideas I pinned here and organized our first day together. I have to have tons of ideas because I teach the same children for up to six years and Pinterest has so many ideas, I never have to repeat myself unless I want to redo something they loved.

This year, I am trying to be a STEM classroom, that is I was until I went on to Pinterest and found out about STEAM. Now, with the tons of pins I have pinned, I will never run out of ideas and activities. I only have one problem now. I keep trying to remember how I taught before Pinterest, and I can't quite seem to remember! What is your best find on Pinterest?