Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pick Me!

In my second grade classroom, especially at the beginning of the year, my students were nervous about participating in class.  Or they were too eager!  I often found that a handful of students loved to participate, while a majority were happy to sit back and let this handful of students do all of the work.  My solution?   Participation sticks! 
Looking for a way to increase participation in your classroom?  Use participation sticks!  A quick, easy classroom management tool for teachers.  It's not as random as you (or your students) think!
Each student had a stick with their number on it, which I placed in a container on my table while I was teaching a lesson.  I would randomly draw a stick when I asked a question and that student would get to answer!
Looking for a way to increase participation in your classroom?  Use participation sticks!  A quick, easy classroom management tool for teachers.  It's not as random as you (or your students) think!
I taught an inclusion class, so my resource teacher often helped out with this.  While my students thought that the selection was random,  I was actually much more strategic about it.  I picked students who I knew would be successful answering the question or would be able to work out the answer with my assistance (or their peers).

I also had students who were quite high academically, but very shy.  I would help build up their confidence before pulling their number to answer a question.  This helped them feel more successful while stepping out of their comfort zone.

The best part of this technique was that, as the year went on, we built a caring, trusting community in our classroom.  Not long after starting the participation sticks, the students would get really excited to see who would be picked next.  Eventually, we didn't even need the sticks anymore, as the students were clambering over each other to participate in the class lessons.

For more bright ideas, browse the link-up  below!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week!  At our school, we get all the students involved to show the staff how much we really care about them.   It's a really simple, easy project that has a big impact.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
Each student receives a blank template to complete.  Classroom teachers can decide to do this in class or to send home for the students to complete on their own.  The student chooses at least one staff member (teacher, aide, janitor, etc.) that they want to recognize.  Using a combination of words and drawings, the student shares why they appreciate that adult.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
Students are given the option of choosing more than one staff member, they just need to use one template per adult.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
All the cards are collected and a folder for each teacher is created.  I keep a checklist of all the staff members to ensure that each adult is properly recognized.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
Oftentimes, the teachers who don't see as many students, such as the speech teacher, don't receive quite as many.  I then recruit students to help fill those gaps.

At the end of the week, we place the filled folder in each teacher's mailbox.  It's such a wonderful gift to receive each year.  I love reading what is important to students and fuels my teaching, especially as the end of the year approaches.
What a great idea for a teacher appreciation day gift!  Easy and free for students to put together to celebrate all the staff at their school.
And you better believe that I keep every.single.one!  Want to start this project with your school?  Click here to grab all the templates for free!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poetry Notebooks

Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
Poetry is a wonderful way for students to build fluency and accuracy while reading.  I was a little upset when they pulled it out of our second grade curriculum.  I knew I wanted to incorporate it into our classroom, even if I wasn't explicitly teaching it to my students.

I decided to have my students create poetry notebooks.  Each week they would receive a new poem to add to their notebook and by the end of the year, they had quite a collection!
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
On Monday, I would read the poem out loud to my students during our morning meeting.  We would discuss any unknown words or literary devices that were used in the poem (in this case - onomatopoeia).  Oftentimes we would talk about the sensory details that the poem depicted.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
The students would then get their own copy to put into their poetry notebook.  I would give them about 5 minutes to color in the pictures on their poem to give it a sense of personalization.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
We would practice reading the poem together every day during morning meeting.  This helped the students to not only be able to read all the words, but to get a sense of the flow of the poem as well.

Their poetry notebook was kept in their book bag.  At any time during Reader's Workshop, they were able to pull out the notebook and practice the poems that we had collected.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
This was a great resource for them, especially if they were at the "read to a partner" station.  Each partner had their own copy of the poems and they could read them together or take turns.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
There were times when I would also have the students pull out their poetry notebooks when they were meeting with me.  This often depended on what I was working on with a particular group or if I saw that certain students were struggling with a poem.

I chose poems in a variety of ways.  I liked to choose ones that went along with the current season or holiday.  Other times, I would select poems that went along with a particular skill that we were learning in Reader's Workshop.

When I did teach poetry, I liked to hang these fun posters in the classroom for students to reference as we created poetry journals with our own work.
Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!

Having students create their own poetry notebooks is a fun way for them to practice reading fluently and accurately.  This post incorporates many pictures on how to get one started in your classroom!
Since April is Poetry Month, I've added quite a few poetry resources to my "Think Spring" pinterest board - check it out!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Westing Game

Many of my fondest memories of elementary school occurred in my fifth grade classroom.  Not only did my teacher constantly expect our best effort, but she made learning fun.  When I was moved to fifth grade a few years ago, my goal was to emulate her teaching strategies.  Not a day goes by where I don't think back to how I felt as a student in that classroom and how I want my students to feel - engaged, yet challenged.

One activity that stands out was her read-aloud of The Westing Game.  Quickly, this novel became one of my all-time favorite books.  I knew that I HAD to teach it in my own classroom.  Thanks to Scholastic's Dollar Deals, I quickly acquired a class set of novels and we got right to work.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
There are a lot of characters in this book (over 20!), so it's important that we keep track of them.  We put all their names into a bucket and each student draws one name (if I have more students in my class, a couple of them will double up).
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
They are then in charge of that character throughout the novel.  They keep track of that character's personality traits, behaviors and possible motives.  After each chapter the students report to the rest of the class what they have discovered about their assigned character and adds notes to the character chart.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
We also keep track of the characters in our Detective Case Files.  In this file, we have a layout of the apartment building where the novel takes place (this is crucial to the story), as well as character notes.  The students can also use this file to take notes on each chapter.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!

The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
An extra activity that the students are allowed to do (on their own time), is to create character trading cards.  These are so much fun to make!  The students write down important information about each character on the back of the card and sketch a picture on the front.  Side Note: these drawings came from MClaSSy on TpT.  I have the students draw their own characters.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
As we move into the novel, the students begin to play "The Westing Game" along with the characters.  They each receive a $10,000 check just as the heirs do and, based on their excitement level, you would think it was real money!
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
The students also receive all the clues as they are revealed in the novel.  I print them on different colored paper, so that the students can keep track of which clues belong to which set of pairs.  This is their absolute favorite part. 
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
Whenever they finish their work, they are allowed to pull out their clues to try to figure out what the answer to the mystery is.  I have to say, it's my favorite part too!  It's amazing to watch their minds work and hear their predictions.  It is definitely a thinking-outside-the-box moment for my students.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
The students also have a comprehension packet to complete as they read the story.  We use this as a basis for our class discussions after each chapter.  Oftentimes, I let them read and complete the packet in partners because I find that they get so much more out of the book when they are able to talk about it with someone else.  They are also required to look up some of the vocab words from each chapter.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
As I mentioned before, there is a LOT that happens in the book.  And sometimes even I get a tad confused!  To alleviate that, I keep a file of all my own notes.  I use this just as a quick reference for myself, since I would rather let the students lead a discussion to share what they find to be important to the plot of the story.  In my binder, I keep my chapter notes, a chart of all the partners and their clues, notes on each character and an answer key to the student comprehension questions as well as the vocab definitions.
The Westing Game is a wonderfully intriguing mystery and a great novel study for upper elementary and middle school students.  This blog post is chock full of ideas, activities and lesson plans to bring this book to life in your classroom!
My enthusiasm for this book is unrivaled and I think my students can tell.  They get so into it every year and I love being able to bring it alive for them.  When we use this novel, I feel as though I can see the wheels inside their heads turning as they are trying to figure out the mystery.  It also creates amazing conversations and debates among my students.  I highly recommend bringing this book into your classroom!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Flat Stanley goes on an Adventure!

Have you ever gone on an adventure with Flat Stanley??  It was one of my students' favorite activities in second grade!  
Full of ideas, templates and activities for organizing a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!
We would read the original novel by Jeff Brown (there's a whole series) together.  It is a wonderful story about a a young boy who is flattened (but unharmed) by a bulletin board.  He then shares his adventures being only 1/2 an inch thick.    One of his adventures includes mailing himself across the country in an envelope.  So, as a class, we create our own Flat Stanley projects!
Full of ideas, templates and activities for organizing a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!
I sent letters home to parents, asking each student to bring in at least one address of a family member or friend who lived outside of our town (the farther away. the better!).  Not all students would bring in an address, but some students would bring in multiple so everyone was able to send at least one Flat Stanley out.

Once we had the addresses, each student designed their own Flat Stanley with a template that I provided.  We would write a letter to our Flat Stanley's recipient with instructions to take him on an adventure.  In the envelope, we would also include a blank fact sheet for the recipient to fill out about their state/country.  Side note:  our class would use my How to Write a Letter packet to learn how to set up their envelope and friendly letter.
If a student didn't have an address to send their Flat Stanley to, they could take him on their own adventure over the weekend.  They would create a Travel Journal for him, detailing what they did in pictures and words.

 As each student received their Flat Stanley back (hopefully!), they would fill out an info sheet for our class binder.  It became a great reference tool for our classroom library!  You could also use this Studying the States packet to research our country and create a binder for the class.

We would also track Flat Stanley's travels on our very own maps.  Each student has a file folder with two maps in it, one of the USA and one of the world.  We would color in a state or place a star on the country once Flat Stanley visited there.  The students were so excited to do this!  And it was great geography practice too!
Full of ideas, templates and activities for organizing a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!
As we read the book, the students would also answer comprehension questions, practice their vocabulary and complete some activity sheets to show their understanding of the novel.
Everything in this post can be found in my Flat Stanley Project pack so that you can re-create it in your own classroom!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Animal Research Projects

I'm throwing it back to my second-grade days today!  One of my favorite field trips was our visit to the local zoo.  In preparation for this trip, my students would research an animal and become an "expert" on that animal.  They would then write a non-fiction book to add to our classroom library.

To start, we would pull out a map of the zoo to see all the animals that were there.  We would make a list and each student would choose a different one as their animal to research.  We then pulled a LOT of books our of the library and found some great websites online to help us find information.  The students kept track of their research on their notes pages:
There is one note page per topic that they were required to research (appearance, diet, habitat).  In each box, they were to write one fact that they learned in "jot-dot" format.  This kept them organized and was also a visual of how many facts they needed to have.

The students then put their information into a paragraph, each paragraph covering one topic.  We practiced this quite a bit together as a class.  We also discussed proper paragraph format, using an opening and closing sentence.
Once they had completed writing all their paragraphs and editing/revising them, it was time to create their books!
The students then created a table of contents, which they thought was pretty darn cool!
Each topic of study got it's own writing page that was labeled.  If they wrote a lot (or have large handwriting), they used a blank lined page.
As students were researching, I noticed that they find quite a bit of information that didn't quite fit into their 3 topics.  The students wanted to include these interesting facts, but weren't sure where to put them.  So we created a "Fun Facts" page!
The students also created diagrams of their animal, labeling its parts.
Once the students had completed their books, we put them in the classroom library for everyone to enjoy.  Then, when we visited the zoo, they were so excited to tell the rest of the class all about their animal!

Everything in this post can be found in my Animal Research Project set.  Enjoy!


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Organizing Interactive Notebooks

Interactive notebooks are a great education tool for teaching all subjects - math, reading, science and even social studies! Keeping them organized can be tricky though. Check out these tips to keep your interactive notebooks running smoothly!


I'll admit, I was a little slow to jump on the Interactive Notebook craze.  I didn't really get what it was all about at first.  Once I figured out how awesome they were, I thought, sign me up!  I purchased some Interactive Reading Notebooks for my class and we got right to work!

Um.  Epic Fail.

My students were ALL over the place.  Literally.  Throughout the lesson, I had students constantly searching the room for supplies or making multiple trips to the recycling bin.  Students were jumping ahead and not following the correct directions.  After a week, I threw my hands up in frustration. 

But, like any good teacher, I took a step back and thought about how I could make this work in my classroom.  I knew that my students could really benefit from these activities, as long as we could get ourselves organized.

Interactive notebooks are a great education tool for teaching all subjects - math, reading, science and even social studies! Keeping them organized can be tricky though. Check out these tips to keep your interactive notebooks running smoothly!

Material Organization
I decided that each group needed their own set of materials.  This would ensure that all students had everything they needed at the beginning of the lesson and eliminate the constant searching for scissors, red crayons, etc.  I numbered my groups and each group has their own bucket. 
The buckets are kept all together on a shelf in the classroom.  At the beginning of the lesson, one student from each group retrieves the bucket and empties it once they get back to their group (I'll explain why in a minute).  I also keep buckets of extras on hand, in case a group runs out of something.  I label these buckets by the type of material they contain.

Once the bucket is emptied, it becomes a mini-recycling bin!  With Interactive Notebooks, there are a lot of scraps.  I either had students constantly walking to the recycling bin or pieces of paper all over the floor.  Their group bin collects all their scraps until the very end of the lesson.  This way, if something is thrown away "accidentally," it can be easily retrieved!  Once the lesson is over, one student from each group empties their bucket before putting their materials back in.
And those extra pieces that don't need to be recycled?  They go in the envelope in the back of their notebook!  Sometimes we don't finish our lesson before class ends, so this envelope holds the pieces that have been cut out, but not glued down yet.

Giving Directions
I was also struggling with students who were jumping ahead of me before I completed my directions or having to repeat myself if students didn't hear the directions.  I decided picture clues were the answer! 

I made number cards and visuals for each step.  They are very basic, so they could be used with any notebook we were creating.  I glued magnets to the back so that they could be hung up on my white board.
Our class also came up with a new rule.  They couldn't start a step until the picture clue had been put on the board.  For example, they weren't allowed to even pick up their scissors until the "Cut" picture was placed on the board by me.  This meant that they would hear all the directions before they started.  Their eyes were all on me, as well, as they waited until I put that picture up!
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Taking these steps towards organization has made a HUGE difference in my teaching with Interactive Notebooks.  It is no longer a frustration for me or a mess for my students.  And we really enjoy learning this way!  If you are interested in any of these labels, you can grab them here.  I hope that you find them helpful as well!