Cold winters can make recess difficult. This fun alternative will make indoor recess more fun for your students!
I don't know about where you are, but here in New England, our winters are cold and snowy.  This means that we often have indoor recess or, if we do go outside, it's not terribly fun.

Our PTF (parent-teacher forum) came up with the idea of a Recess Program.  Students are given a list of a variety of activities that will take place during recess.  They choose the top 3 activities that they are interested in attending.  The PTF then goes through the forms and places each student in one of their top choices.  The program runs once a week, for about 6 weeks.


This is an optional program, students are not required to participate.  Normal recess takes place while the program is going on for students who choose not to go.  However, if students sign up, they are expected to attend each time. 


The program uses volunteers from the community, who come in during all recess times.  They set up in empty rooms or spaces around the school.  The activities vary each year, based on the skills of the volunteers.  


Here are a few of the activities that students can choose from:


Legos - Lego blocks are donated by the community.  Students are able to build structures to their heart's content!
Cold winters can make recess difficult. This fun alternative will make indoor recess more fun for your students!
Yoga - An instructor comes in to teach students a variety of yoga moves.  Students are reminded to wear comfortable clothes/shoes on recess program day!
Cold winters can make recess difficult. This fun alternative will make indoor recess more fun for your students!
Karate - Similar to yoga, an instructor comes to share different karate moves for students to learn.  Again, they are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

Sign Language/Foreign Language - a volunteer who is fluent in a foreign language shares their knowledge with the students.  They usually do just basic vocabulary, but the kids love this one!  They are always excited to share their new words with me.

Art - this session can take two forms.  Sometimes it is structured, where the parent volunteer plans crafts for the students to create.  Other times, it is open-ended and the students are able to just draw.
Cold winters can make recess difficult. This fun alternative will make indoor recess more fun for your students!
All of the materials are either donated by the community or use the funds raised by PTF.  Students are not charged any money to participate in this program.

It is a great program to mix things up during the doldrums of cold winters!

Time for some tough love here.  Being a student teacher isn't for the faint of heart.  It will be a busy semester (or year), but you will learn SO much!  The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.  Hopefully, you'll even get a job out of it!  Here are some tips to make the most of your student teaching experience.

1. Dress professionally 
I can't stress this one enough.  Student teaching is your "job" right now and you need to dress the part.  
Guys - wear a tie, a button down shirt, dress pants and no sneakers!  
Ladies - clothing shouldn't be too low cut or tight (leggings are not pants!), shoes should be dressy, but comfortable (I don't recommend really high heels).

You are going to be working on the floor with students and walking around a lot, so you need to be comfortable, but you also need to be professional.  You should not have a coffee cup in your hand or a cell phone.  For some of the staff in the building, the only interaction you will have is seeing them in the hall.  You want them to have a good first impression of you.

2. Ask questions
Your cooperating teacher is there to help you.  Ask questions if you aren't sure about something or want to know more.  If a teacher has been in the profession for many years, they may forget what it's like to have never been in a classroom before.  Use this opportunity to learn as much as possible about teaching.  

Sometimes your cooperating teacher just isn't open to helping you (it happens).  Seek out another staff member in the building for help if you need to.

3. Be prepared
Actually, be over-prepared.  Have your lessons ready.  Make sure all your materials are ready to go.  Have a back-up in case your lesson doesn't go as planned.  Because...well...rarely do things go as planned in a classroom!  

You will feel more confident if you are truly ready and it will show in your teaching.  Your cooperating teacher is watching (and possibly your professor or even your principal).

4. Be on time
Always, always be on time.  Maybe even a tad early.  Again, you are trying to make a good impression.  Staff members are aware of when you walk into the building each day.   If you are late once, people don't notice.  If you are late once a week, it's pretty obvious.

Yes, there will be a time or two when you have a flat tire or are stuck in traffic.  Make sure you let your cooperating teacher or the office know.  Remember, when you are a teacher, there are 30 little bodies waiting in the hallway for you to show up each day.  Being late is not an option!

Don't go crazy, though.  You don't need to show up at 6am if school doesn't start until 9:00.  You'll be tired before the day even starts!

5. Get involved!
Go to the book fair.  Take part in the staff basketball game.  Volunteer to join a committee.  You'll have fun hanging out with other staff and your students will be excited to see you. Every thing you do will give you a glimpse into what being a teacher is all about!

*Bonus Tip*
Have fun!  As I mentioned before, student teaching is what you make of it.  It can be stressful and overwhelming at times, but it's also a great experience.  Smile, laugh and enjoy learning about being a teacher!

Do you have a student teacher this year?  I have some tips for you!  Hop on over to this post to learn more.
Take Home Book Bags are one of my favorite alternatives to homework for my second graders.  They give my students the opportunity to read at home if they don't have access to books, but also involves their families in the reading process.  To learn more about the what and why of Take Home Book Bags, check out this post.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Today I want to share with you just where I get the materials for my Take Home Book Bags.  Don't worry, I don't break the bank trying to do so!

Book Bags
For the actual book bags, I use the Store More Book Pouches from Really Good Stuff.  They are very durable and the materials all stay inside.  These book pouches also stand up well on the bookshelf when I am storing them.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Ziplock bags or canvas bags also work well.  Each bag gets a label so that it's easy to locate on the bookshelf.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Books
Can books get expensive? Yes, BUT, they don't have to be!  Here are a few tricks that I use to get them cheaply.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
First, I dig through my classroom library.  If there are any books that are not in great shape or if I have multiple copies, those go towards my book bags.  Also, if another teacher in the building is cleaning out their classroom, they place books in the teacher's room.  I quickly grab these up!

I also purchase a lot of my books from book sales at my local library.  Hardcover picture books for 25 cents?  Yes please!  The books are used, but most are still in great shape.

Scholastic book orders are another great way to get books for cheap.  You can get books for only a dollar or even for free if you use bonus points!  I have found that the Scholastic Book Fair that we host at our school is often expensive, but the monthly book orders have some great deals.

I go into more detail about purchasing books for cheap in this post.

Journals
I create my own journal by printing writing pages and binding them into a book.  I create one book per bag with enough response pages for each student.  I copy the response pages back-to-back so that way there is extra space if a student needs it.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
I know that some teachers have copy limits, though.  The journals can also be created with a composition book or a spiral notebook.  These can be snatched up for cheap from Target or Staples during Back-to-School sales.  Sometimes as cheap as 5 cents! Keep an eye out over the summer for this deal.
Composition Book:
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!

Check-Out
This is super simple.  I just use a pocket chart to track the bags!  I believe my pocket chart is from the Dollar Section at Target.  I then print out and laminate labels for each book bag and a set of class numbers.  I place all the labels on the chart ahead of time and then my students get their number card when they come up to choose their Take Home Book Bag for the week.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
File Storage
I like to keep extras of all the game materials, journal pages and worksheets just in case something gets lost.  I use file folders and this file bin that I already happened to have in my classroom.  These materials could easily be stored in a binder or in a file cabinet.  Or you could make the copies as they are needed.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!

A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!

Want to learn more about how I use Take Home Book Bags?  Check out these links:

Take Home Book Bags - The What and Why
Take Home Book Bags - Organization

Take Home Book Bags are one of my favorite alternatives to homework for my second graders.  They give my students the opportunity to read at home if they don't have access to books, but also involves their families in the reading process.  To learn more about the what and why of Take Home Book Bags, check out this post.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Today, I want to share with you how I organize my Take Home Book Bags and what the check-out process looks like.  Once you get into a routine, it is so easy!

Check-Out
My students check-out Take Home Book Bags once a week.  I don't know about you, but in my classroom, Mondays and Fridays were typically very busy days.  So the students check out their book bag on Thursday and return them on Tuesday.  That gave me a day in between to make sure the bags were in order.  It also gave the students an extra day to return their bag if they forgot.  The check-in/check-out process only takes about 8 minutes and I usually do this during Morning Work time.

To check books out, I randomly call students up to the Check-Out pocket chart.  I hand them a card with their class number on it.  They place their number next to the book bag label that they want to check out that week.  They know that only one number can go next to each label.  If another student had already checked it out, they can't choose that one.  I encourage them to choose a new book each week, so that all students can have a turn reading each one.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
I have a checklist of all the students and bag names.  When they check out a bag, I put a circle on the chart.  Once they return the bag, a checkmark goes in the circle.  This list makes it easy to see which bags are out and which students have them.  Students are only allowed to have one book bag out at a time.  They are not allowed to choose another one until their current bag has been returned.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Bag Storage
I store the Take Home Book Bags on a shelf in my classroom.  They easily stand up and students are able to quickly search for the bag that they want.  I also place the check-out chart right next to the shelf so that everything is together.  This makes the process so much easier and quicker!
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Material Storage
I store extra copies of game pieces and worksheets in a file box.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
Each folder is labeled for the bag that it belongs in.  That way I always have the pieces within reach if something gets lost.  The 'T' stands for Themed book bag and the 'A' stands for Author book bag.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!

Want to learn more about how I use Take Home Book Bags?  Check out the links below:

Take Home Book Bags - The What and Why
Take Home Book Bags - The Materials


"I didn't do my reading homework last night," one of my second-grade students said to me, sheepishly.  Before I jumped to conclusions, I decided to probe for more details.

"I don't have any books at home."

Well.  That's a pretty legit reason.

I had been asking my students to read every night and it had never occurred to me that they might not have enough books in their home.  These kids wanted to read, but didn't have access to them!  I knew that I needed to quickly remedy this situation.  However, I wanted to ensure that I didn't lose my entire collection of picture books as well.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
That's when I came up with the idea of Take Home Book Bags.  I put together bags of books with supplemental materials, each centered around a theme or author.  My students would choose one bag to sign out at the beginning of each week.  They would take the bag home and share it with their families, before returning it at the end of the week.  My goal with the book bags was not only for my students to read books, but to spend time with their families as well.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
So, what's in each Take Home Book Bag?  I start with Store More Book Pouches from Really Good Stuff.  They are very durable and the materials all stay inside.  Ziploc bags or canvas bags also work well.  Each bag gets a label so that it's easy to locate on the bookshelf.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
In each bag there are 3-4 picture books that relate to the bag's theme.  And no, I don't go to Barnes and Noble to get hardcover books for this!  I use older books or duplicates from my classroom library.  I also purchase used books from local library book sales or yard sales (25 cents each!).  It doesn't cost me a lot and it's not a big deal if they get lost or ruined at home.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
The bag also includes a writing journal.  Students have the opportunity to respond to short writing prompts that I've created to go along with the bag's theme.  Each bag has three prompts, so they are able to choose which one they want.  I put together the  journal by printing out pre-made pages and binding it together (a composition book or spiral notebook also work).
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
In the journal, I start with a sign-in sheet.  My students feel very important when they "sign-in" to use the writing journal and they like to see who else has checked out this particular bag.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
After the sign-in sheet, I include a list of questions that the students can choose from.  I encourage them to discuss their answers with their families before writing it down.  I also leave room for them to draw a picture!  Since every student uses the same journal, it gives students the opportunity to read their peers' work.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
In each bag, I place a game for students to enjoy with their families.  My intent is to provide an interactive experience.  To make it even easier, the activity usually requires minimal or no materials.  I print the direction and game pieces (if applicable) on card-stock and laminate it.  this way it can be used multiple times without being crushed or ripped or needing to be replaced.  I also place the game pieces in a zip-up pencil pouch (or Ziplock bag) to keep them all together.
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
I also provide a list of activities for students to do with their families that relate to the bag's theme.  These are just simple ideas to get families interacting and having fun together!
A great alternative to regular reading homework!  Elementary students take home a bag of books each week to share with their families.  The bag includes not only books, but fun family activities as well!
While I expect my students to read every night, I do not make the Take Home Book Bags mandatory.  Before I being the projects, I send home a permission slip with students that describes the project and what is involved, if they choose to participate.

If a family chooses to participate, I do not require that they complete all the activities in the bag.  My main goal is to provide them with books.  The writing journal, games and activities are just added fun!

Take Home Book Bags quickly became one of my students' favorite activities!  They look forward to picking out a new bag every week and taking it home to share with their families.

~ Coming Soon ~
Take Home Book Bags - The Organization
Take Home Book Bags - The Materials


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