Monday, July 21, 2014

Hook Them from the First Day ... Tips for Back to School

Like it or not, it's nearing that time again ... back to school.  I know some of my teacher friends are heading back already!

A few days ago on my facebook page, I asked people to leave a comment about their favourite back to school activity.  You know, those activities that start to build a positive classroom environment and get the students excited about the year right from the very first day.  Their ideas were so fabulous, I knew I had to share some of them with you (and get them down somewhere so I wouldn't forget them).

  • Make a silhouette of each student's head using a projecter.  Then, students draw pictures of their likes and favourites within the head.  (Kerri)
  • Students fill a brown paper bag with ten objects that reveal something about themselves, or evoke a special or humorous memory.  They decorate the bag and present it to the rest of the class.  (Candace)
  • Using a big ball of yarn, get together in a circle and toss the yarn ball to each other, holding onto the yarn.  Students usually tell something they want us to know about them.  Eventually it makes a huge web and we talk about unity and how we all have to work together.  (Monica)
  • Have your students write 5 things about themselves on a piece of paper, crumple the paper up, and throw it across the room a few times.  Students then find a paper and guess whose it is.  (Katy)
  • Read The Important Book and have students create a list of important things about them.  Then have students use Wordle, Tagxedo, or Cloudart to generate a cloud of words about them.  Make sure they also include their names.  Their work is then printed and posted.  (Kimberly)
  • Make hot air balloons.  Give each student a pre-made cut out of a hot air balloon.  On the front of the basket, students write their name and 4 things about themselves.  The balloon is for their goals for the year (at least one is personal/family/outside activity related).  The straps that connect the balloon to the basket display strategies that will help students reach their goals, and people who can help them. (Lesley)
  • Take a picture of the student on the first day and have them write a letter to themselves for the last day of school.  It's always fun to see how much they change in one year.  (Kristine)
  • Pass around a roll of toilet paper, asking each student to take as much as they think they need.  After all have done so, the students are then told that they need to share as many things about themselves as squares of toilet paper they have taken.  Always a fun way to start the day.  (Jody)
  • Write questions on a big playground or beach ball.  Toss the ball around and when it is caught, where a student's right thumb lands, that's the question they answer.  (Karen)
  • Measure the students on a bulletin board.  At the end of the year, you can put the paper back up and measure again.  Students are always amazed at how much they've grown.  (Katherine)
  • Do a team-building activity where you take one large marshmallow, 20 uncooked linguini sticks, and an arms-length of tape.  In small groups, the students work together to build the tallest free stranding structure.  (Kristi)
  • Make a "My Reading Timeline" where students make timelines that show their favourite books, series, authors, throughout the years starting as far back as they can remember.  Return the timelines at the end of the year so students can add their new favourites from the year.  (Jennifer)
  • Students decorate a butterly to represent them.  They pass it to the right and the person compliments them and then returns the butterfly.  It still looks beautiful and the student feel good.  Then, they pass it to the left and the person says something they don't like about it and then they crumple up the butterfly and return it.  The butterfly will never look as beautiful.  This activity then goes into a discussion about character and the importance of using kind words.  (Heather)
  • Students stand in a circle (teacher included) and toss a bean bag to one person at a time, saying that person's name.  Everyone has to remember who they threw the bean bag to.  Do it a couple of times with one bean bag going in the order you created, and then introduce a second bean bag so there are two bean bags going at once in the same order.  If they're really good at it, a third bean bag is introduced.  It's a great twist on the traditional name game.  (Cherissa)
  • Give all the children letters in a bag that say ______ Grade Rocks!  (without telling them what the letters actually spell out).  They then have to see how many phrases or words they can come up with using the letters.  Challenge them to use all the letters.  The students will usually end up working together to find the phrase.  (Kirsten)
  • Have kids wander around the room.  Call out a number and a machine.  Kids have to make groups of the number called and then "make" the machine with their bodies.  (Jennifer)
  • Read Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and his wife, then discuss things students can do in the school or classroom to make changes during the school year on little footprints and then display them in the hallway.  (Evette)
This was just a small sample of the ideas ... so many wonderful and creative ones were shared.  

I have a favourite activity to share, too.  I like to do this bio poem with my students on the first day.  I project the poem first for students to get a rough copy done, then give them the templates for students to complete and decorate their presentation copies.  Students also make a picture of themselves to display with the poem.  The poem template is a freebie in my TPT store, and there is a template included for each grade, so I've got everyone covered.  ;)  You can download it by clicking HERE.  It makes a great bulletin board display that is ready to go by the end of the first day.

I have also bundled together some of my favourite back to school activities on TPT into a great First Days of School Activity Bundle.  This bundle includes my Back to School Drama Circle (a fantastically fun ice breaker activity), Back to School Cootie Catchers (for students to get to know their classmates in a small group or partner activity), The Length of a Summer (a fun mathematics problem-solving activity), and my newest First Day Apples Craftivity (get your students writing and create a fabulous display all in one activity).  You can view this bundle by clicking HERE.

Whenever your first day happens to be, I hope you have a WONDERFUL back to school start.  And maybe you gathered some new ideas today.  ;)

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Currently in July ...

So, I'm a day late linking up to the oh-so-fabulous Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade for her Currently linky.  But I'm OK with that - it's summer, right.  We're allowed to be on our own schedule.

Speaking of the oh-so-fabulous Farley, I wrote to her and asked if I could change up the July Currently template a bit to make more of a Canadian theme ... because yesterday was all about celebrating Canada Day here.

Loving the summer holidays!!!  It's been a LONG year, and this is exactly what I need ... even if it does mean listening to way too many kid shows on TV.

I'm determined to stay organized this summer - I've got a way-too ambitious to-do list on my computer, organized by day, with jobs for all of us (the kiddos are NOT excited about this).  ;)  I'm worried if I don't do something like this, the summer will just slip away on me.  And I do love the satisfaction I get crossing something off the list.

I'm almost ready for the Vegas trip ... just need to do a little more shopping.  Wishing I had lost a little more weight (hate shopping right now), but it is what it is.  I did put exercising on my daily to-do list ... today's activity is some Wii Dance with the girls - figure it might as well be enjoyable and keep the girls entertained.

Yesterday was Canada Day - and we had a lovely day at my parents' cottage with the whole family.  It was a beautiful day for a BBQ and a swim (and a couple of photo opportunities).  Perfect.  We capped off the day with fireworks - it had been raining all night, but they still went ahead with them, and we cuddled in the truck with our bags of popcorn to watch the show.  Perfect.  It was a great way to kick off July, and I have a feeling the rest of the month will be just as ... perfect.  :)

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Made-It - Wreaths, Resources, and Pie ... Oh My

YAY for summer!!!  We just finished our school year on Friday and oh my goodness - it's been quite the year.  I honestly feel my Monday Made-It post should be ...

I made it to the end of the year.


That alone is reason to celebrate.

But ... I've managed to accomplish a few more things to share.

I made a beautiful summer wreath for my door.  I had seen a gorgeous wreath with little red tulip buds, and headed out to Michaels to gather some supplies.  But alas, they didn't have nearly enough tulip buds to make a wreath.  So, I had to come up with a new plan.  I finally (after many handfuls of flowers and making my daughter lay them out on the floor in a circle shape) decided on green hydrangea blossoms and little cream rose buds.  I love it.  

Now, I should mention, I'm not one for fussy crafts.  I can't be bothered with the floral wire and tape, so I just snipped the flowers off the stems with my scissors, and pulled out my glue gun.  Everything you see is glue gunned on (is that a verb?), which made the entire process much quicker, and I didn't even burn myself this time.  (But, one week later and the "E" has fallen off ... maybe I should have glued that one on a little stronger).  For the wreath I used 4 large hydrangea blossoms, and about 7 bunches of cream rose buds. Isn't it pretty??

I also finally finished my Text Structure Concept Posters.  They had been on my to-do list forever, and had been sitting unfinished in my permanently open PowerPoint tab on my computer.  But, I put the push on, and finished them up.  

I included 2 different posters for each text structure (cause and effect, compare and contrast, description, problem and solution, and sequence).  One poster is more general - perfect for teaching or modelling the text structure.  The other poster is more text specific (but can be used with any nonfiction text) - focusing on what the student learned from the text, using the text structure.  It also includes a graphic organizer specific to the text structure.  This one is great for a summative assessment.

I also included a student checklist for success criteria, rubric, blank template, and completed example.

Last but not least, I made this little beauty last night for tonight's supper.  The strawberries and rhubarb are fresh out of my garden, and as soon as my husband picked them, I knew a pie was in order.

The recipe was quick and easy ... because that's how I roll in the summer.  ;)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • 3 1/2 cups strawberries (quartered)
  • 3 1/2 cups rhubarb (cut into 1/2" slices)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp butter 
Mix all ingredients (except the butter) and pour into prepared pie shell (I used a frozen shell, because I can't stand rolling out pie dough).
Dab butter on top before putting on top crust (I thawed the frozen shell a bit and used my pizza cutter to cut strips so I could make a lattice top).
Brush top with cream or milk and sprinkle sugar on top (I used raw sugar).  *This step is completely optional.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

And, that's that.  I'm linking up with my friend Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for her fabulous Made-It-Monday ... and I can't wait to share a lot more Monday Made-Its with you this summer.  :)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Currently

I still cannot fathom that it's June already.  As ready as I am for the end of the year, I need more time!!!  I haven't linked up to a Currently over at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade in far too long, so here goes ..

It's Sunday ... so that means laundry day around here.  With three kiddos (girls, at that) around here, my clothes mountains never seem conquered.  I guess I could have better time management and throw in a few loads through the week, but who am I kidding ... that will never happen.  ;)

I'm LOVING the beautiful weather we've had this week.  I think we skipped right past spring (we did have snow until the very end of April) - and I'm fine with that.  We've been taking advantage of the beautiful weather with a little (A LOT) work around the yard and my kids' school.  Yesterday they had an "extreme makeover" at their school - brand new playground installed, painting, yard work, benches, sandboxes, rink moved ... it was CRAZY the amount of work that was accomplished.  My kids are SO excited for Monday!

I'm definitely thinking about our provincial testing starting tomorrow.  My students have worked their tails off this year, and they are as ready as they will ever be.  I'm just about to head out to grab a few little testing encouragement treats for them.  I can't wait until testing is over ... I have a few extra special FUN days of learning planned for them this month.

I can't really think of anything I want or need right now.  Life is good.  Well, except maybe another day this weekend.  But who couldn't use that?  ;)

Summer bucket list ... well, I'm SUPER excited to go to Las Vegas to meet all my blogging buddies!!!  I've actually been to Vegas before, so I'm not sure if it should really be on my bucket list, but I was 16 when I went ... so it doesn't really count, right??  I'm also taking my daughter's to their first real concert (One Direction) and we're getting our house renovated - so, it will be a busy summer, but one I'm VERY much looking forward to.  Like I said, life is very good right now.  :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Letter to Next Year's Class

I know this isn't a new idea, but I wanted to share another idea we did in my class at the end of last year.  Last year we wrote letters to next year's class, but I added a little twist.  Even though these letters were written to students in the grade below us, I can't begin to tell you how much these letters meant to me.  Reading them brought a tear to my eye, as I reflected on all the activities we had done together, the fun we had, and the growth we accomplished.

This class was special because last year was the first time our grade sixes would be leaving the school.  Up until last year, we had been a K-8 school.  With a new intermediate school built in our area last year, our school because a K-6 school, and my students would be moving on at the end of the year.  I had had most of my grade 6 students for two years, and I couldn't imagine not seeing them in the hallways next year.  Definitely bitter sweet, but I also knew they would love and excel in their new surroundings.

OK - back to the letter.  For our little twist on the end of the year letters, I had students come up with One Little Word that summed up their year.  They wrote this word on their whiteboards, and many of them decorated their whiteboards, as well.  I took a picture of them holding their whiteboards in front of a blank bulletin board.  (The little happy faces  on the students are just there for privacy reasons).

I have this awesome little photo printer in my classroom - Epson PictureMate Charm Photo Printer.  The school had purchased one for the primary grades for all the photo documentation they have do, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted my own, so I bought one.  I absolutely LOVE it.  You can instantly print pictures from your digital camera by putting the memory card right into the printer, or plugging the camera into the printer.  I use it a lot in the classroom.  I just leave my little digital camera at school so I have it whenever I need it.  When not in school, I tend to take pics on my phone or my SLR camera.

I made a quick anchor chart for my students to reference while writing their letters.  They needed to include their One Little Word in each paragraph they wrote.  They also needed to include at least 3 paragraphs in their letter, written in friendly letter format.  When finished, students published their letters on the computer, adjusting their font size so that their letter only took up half the page.  We photocopied their letters onto fancy paper, and glued their pictures underneath.  I then laminated them and posted them all on a bulletin board for next year's class to read (their classroom was next door to ours).

Happy Monday!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

End of the Year Memory Bags

So ... rumour has it that many of you are just about done school for the year.  I promise I won't be jealous (well, maybe just a little).  I have 29 days left, but who's counting?  ;)  Actually, 29 days seems quite do-able ... maybe even a little scary considering how many things I still want to do with my class.

These end of the year Memory Bags were something we did in my class last year - I just never got around to blogging about it.  These Memory Bags were a perfect way to finish our year, and got the students really reflecting on all they had done and accomplished over the year.  When the students had finished putting together their bags, and presenting them, we put them all out, with the goodies spread all around, so we could do a gallery walk through our year.

With these memory bags, students decorate the front panel of the paper bag they have been given.  They then include 2 different reflections on each of the side panels, and a larger one on the back panel.  On the inside of the bag, they place 10 objects of importance to them that remind them of their accomplishments over the school year.  For each item they place in their memory bag, there is a card that they fill out explaining why they have included the object.  There are lots of options included in the Memory Bags.  For starters, there are front panels for grades 2 - 6, so it works for a variety of grades.  For each panel, there are numerous options with different questions students can answer.  Perfect for differentiation.  And a great way to end the school year.  You can take a peek at this fun Memory Bag Project by clicking HERE.

Happy Saturday!!!  It's a long weekend here, and I'm planning on enjoying every single moment!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Poetry ... In Reverse

A few years ago I stumbled across the reverse poem, A Lost Generation, by Jonathan Reed.  I was blown away by it.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to share it with my class, and they were just as blown away as I was.  Over the years, I have continued to use it in my classroom, and every year, the reaction by the students is the same.  Many of them even ask to bring a copy home so they can share it with their parents.  (If you can't see the video below, here is the link:

This year, I was finally brave enough to let my students have a go at writing their own reverse poetry.  After we watched and read the poem numerous times, I gave each student their own copy, and they went to work with a highlighter, highlighting the phrases that made the poem "work" (I had them work in groups of 2 or 3 for this).  They quickly noticed that every second phrase was generic - the fact that it contained no specific references was what made the poem reversible.

Then, we visited the site Budding Poets:  Reverse Poetry and read through some more examples of Reverse Poetry before I let the students loose to begin writing their own.  I did tell them they were allowed to "borrow" some of the general phrases from the poem if they were stuck.  This really helped the students get their poems started.  I asked them to try to write at least 14 lines, but many wrote more.

We have been piloting the use of 10 tablets in our classroom - Surface 2 tablets, so we wanted to be able to incorporate this technology into our poetry, as well.  We decided that when the groups were finished writing their poems (and after teacher approval) they would use the whiteboards and the video camera on the tablets to make a whiteboard movie or slideshow of their poems.  They used one whiteboard per line, stacked them all up, and then got ready to shoot their movies.  Most groups chose to make a video of their poems, but a few groups took individual pictures of each whiteboard (slide) and then put them together into a slideshow.  Both worked equally well.  We didn't read the poems out loud on the videos - the students thought it would be more powerful if the video was silent.

Here is a completed example of one of the poems my students wrote.  This group was made up of two 6th grade students.  The video you see is one I took on my iPad, standing behind them while they made a video on their tablet.  One student took the video, and one student was reponsible for changing the whiteboards.  On the video they took, you can only see the one stack of whiteboards (not the stack of removed whiteboards) - mine shows the whole process so you can have a better idea of what we did.  When all the groups were finished, we shared the poems with the whole class by projecting them onto the board.  What a great project!!  (Here is the link if you can't view the movie below:

Have a great weekend!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Still Building Better Answers in Math

We are LOVING the color coding while building better answers in our class.  Seriously.  If you have been reading my blog, you know I use this strategy a lot ... and I've sung its praises often here.  I've been building better answers with color coding in reading for over two years, but I've just recently started to color code our math answers, as well.

I actually wrote about color coding our math responses earlier this year (you can see it HERE), but after creating my "Building Better Responses" resources for Math and Reading, I made a few changes to how we code the math.

This is what my TACK wall looks like now.  (You can read more about our TACK wall for math HERE).  We just started a new unit in math (probability), so I've taken down all our learning goals for our last unit, and am just starting again with our new learning goals.  The goals under Communication are now revised, based on our new way of color coding our answers.

If it was earlier in the year, I would have added the goals under communication slowly, but since we are nearing crunch time with testing, I decided to post all the goals and dive right in.  We do spend time discussing each goal and write about the goal in our math notebooks.  This helps the students see the value of each goal.

And you know what - they are getting it!  Each time we work on a problem (even when I don't remind them to) markers and highlighters are popping out all over the room, and they are truly analyzing their answers to make them better.  

My Building Better Math Responses  resource contains everything you need to get started with your students.  There is a color coded success criteria goal chart (in both blackboard print and white background), "Good Mathematician" notes and answer sheets for each goal, posters and bookmarks, assessment checklists and rubrics (self, peer, and teacher), and some worksheets to get students started (group, partner, and independent).  You can click HERE to take a peek at the resource - it is really working wonders in my classroom.  
You can also take a peek at my Building Better Reading Responses by clicking HERE.  I am loving how the two are working together.

Happy Saturday!  Hope you are enjoying the weekend!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Earth Day Ideas for the Classroom

Earth Day is coming up on Tuesday, and we always devote our whole day to it in the classroom.  Yes, we do believe that every day is Earth Day, and we're big on recyling and conserving energy in the classroom, but on April 22nd, we tend to go a bit bigger with our thoughts and actions.

Here are some ideas I've done in the classroom with my kiddos:

Integrating Art and Language into Earth Day
-  Earth Day Report Card - this is a free product I have in my store.  Students complete a "green" report card for either their home, classroom, or school (all three versions are included).

- Recyled Earth Art Project - These are projects were a big hit!  I gave each student a piece of paper with the outline of the Earth on it.  They then used recycled magazines to fill in all the white space with the appropriate colours (green for the land, blue for the water, and a darker black, grey, or black for the outside area.  So simple, and so effective.

We put both of these ideas together on our Earth Day bulletin board.

Integrating MORE Art and Language into Earth Day
- We have made these fun coffee filter globes - another quick, easy, and effective art project.  We used regular old coffee filters, and coloured them with blue and green markers to resemble a globe.  When we were done colouring, we gave them a quick water spray with water in a squirt bottle.  Then, you just sit back and watch the colours bleed together.  So pretty.  We added our globes to a little writing piece freebie from the Science Penguin that you can view HERE.

Again, together they made a pretty impressive bulletin board display.

Integrate Math into Earth Day
- Take the current math concept you are studying in class, and turn it into a problem-solving activity with an Earth Day Twist.  For this problem, we were studying perimeter and area.  Students completed their activity on half sheets of recycled chart paper, complete with diagrams.

Integrate Math and Phys Ed into Earth Day
- We usually get out for a yard clean-up on Earth Day (however, I doubt this one will be happening this year with all the snow we STILL have).  Last year we did a Yard Clean-Up Relay Race.  So much fun!  I divided the class into teams.  Each team had a garbage bag and a whiteboard.  As each person came in with their garbage to tag the next team member, the team also had to keep track of every piece they collected with tally marks on a white board.  The team that collected the most garbage won, but really, the whole school won with a clean yard.  We then used the data we collected on our white boards to complete a graphing activity.  We were amazed by the amount of garbage we were able to collect ... and requested a few more garbage cans be placed in the yard in hopes of reducing the amount of garbage.

Integrate Technology into Earth Day
- We've been making infographics for Earth Day this year.  We're using a great site - to create our infographics, and the students are LOVING it!  What a great way to integrate technology, research skills, and media all into one.  Another site you can use to make a graphic collage is
I took some screenshots of some of the infographics my students are currently working on.

Integrate Language, Oral Speaking, and Leadership Skills into Earth Day
- This year my students have also written Earth Day announcements they plan to read over the P.A. system during morning announcements for the next two weeks.  Some of their announcements were research based about Earth Day, and some were activity based for the events we would be taking on in the school (I let the students choose their own topics for their announcements).  Because the students have an authentic audience, they took extra care with their writing, and their announcements turned out great!  We discussed using hooks to start our writing, and satisfying conclusion to end our announcements.

Integrate Language, Art, and FUN into Earth Day
- For our last Earth Day project this year, we plan to complete an Earth Day Craftivity I made.  This will be the final piece to our bulletin board display - alongside our announcements and infographics.  I can't wait to pull it all together!!!

You can see this Earth Day craftivity by clicking HERE.

I hope you enjoyed all these Earth Day ideas for your classroom!!!  How do you recognize the day in your classroom?

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