Thursday, December 22, 2016

The "Awesome Year" Challenge! 

What do you do to celebrate the New Year in your classroom? Are you looking for a different way for students to write New Year's resolutions this year? Well you've come to the right place! In my classroom we plan to make this year AWESOME!

Last year I was inspired by a Kid President video to help my kids create New Year's resolutions that were focused on making the world better for everyone. Watch the video below to see how Kid President spreads the love!

I showed this "Awesome Year" video to my class, and then we decided to create our own video that we shared out with our school and parents. I used the following graphic organizer to help kids brainstorm  ideas.

I then had my students choose one idea they wanted to share with the world. We used to create our videos. I compiled them using iMovie (you can also use Windows movie maker), and I uploaded the video to YouTube.

I hope you are inspired to make this year AWESOME as well! 


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Avoiding "Ginchy-Beahvior" In the Classroom

We all know that the next few weeks are a challenge in any classroom! Students become excited, nervous, or anxious for the holiday's - and that sometimes translates into "grinchy-behavior." Here is a holiday themed behavior management tool that I use each year to help eliminate this problem from my classroom.

To implement this tool in your classroom, you will need to print out the giant poster of the Grinch (11x17 or bigger) and cut out some hearts using red construction paper. Click on the images below to download both resources.


After Thanksgiving break, I read the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas to my class. I use the following questions as I read it aloud:
  • Why do you think the Grinch dislikes Christmas so much?
  • What things does the Grinch hate most about Christmas? 
  • Why do you believe the Whos still continued with their Christmas celebration, even after the Grinch had stolen their presents and food?
  • Why do you think the Grinch changed his mind and brought the food and toys back to Who-ville?
  • Who helped the Grinch change his mind about Christmas? 
  • What message is the author trying to teach in this story?
  • Do you think the Grinch is a villain or a hero? 
After reading I show my students a giant poster of the Grinch and the heart cut-outs. I tell them that the next few weeks can be pretty stressful because they are filled with lots of fun and excitement. I tell them how the Grinch in the story's heart was 3 sizes too small, so over the next 3 weeks we are going to focus on doing things in our room that would help the Grinch GROW his heart to a normal size. I have my students take a moment to brainstorm some behaviors that might help to grow the Grinch's heart.

I hand out hearts to students who are showing positive behaviors in the classroom. Those students get to put their names on the red hearts, and then tape them onto the poster of the Grinch. By the time Christmas break arrives, our Grinch is covered with hearts!

What management tools do you use in your room during the weeks leading up to Christmas break?

Friday, July 22, 2016

FREEBIES for Building a Strong Classroom Community

It's that time again to start planning for back-to-school. One of my main focuses for the ENTIRE school year is to build a strong classroom community. We all know that creating a classroom centered around trust and understanding is essential to student learning, however sometimes we forget to extend class building and team building activities beyond the first few weeks of school. Here are a few of my favorite activities that I use from August to May.

1. Mad Libs:
Mad Libs are an excellent way to build your classroom community because they are so funny! No matter who's Mad Lib you are reading aloud, it is bound to make students chuckle. Mad Libs are such a powerful tool in any classroom. Not all students know how to be funny, so giving them positive and appropriate opportunities to connect with their peers though laughter is key! Click below for a FREE back-to-school Mad Lib that is sure to have your students cracking up!

2. Find Someone Who:
I use "Find Someone Who" activities when returning to school after a holiday or break. This is a great way to help students talk about their experiences and connect with others who have had similar experiences. When each of my students finds a person to sign a square, they must then ask them a question that extends on the prompt in that square. Click below for a FREE back-to-school "Find Someone Who."


3. Team Challenge Quizzes:
Have you ever used My kids LOVE it! Whatever is on my computer screen is automatically shown on my students computer screens. Working in teams students complete quick and fun quizzes. In our room we cal these "team challenges." Each group rotates who the leader is, and students must cheer one another on in order to earn points. One of my students favorite team challenges is the Emoji riddles. If you don't have a Nearpod account, sign up for one and then access my emoji quiz by clicking below. 
(Burger King)

4. Order Up:
Order Up is a fun and quick activity that I frequently use as a brain break. Without talking, students have to put themselves into the order of whatever topic I assign.  

I hope you enjoy these free activities. Share below what types of things you do to build a strong classroom community throughout the year!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Blogging - Why Kids Love It!

This year each student in our district was given a Chromebook. It has been a wonderful tool for many reasons, especially for writing.

I have always tried to provide my students with an authentic purpose for their writing. I've also encouraged my students to think about their audience when writing. Most teachers do these things, but even though I've taught my students to keep these things in mind, writing has never really felt truly authentic in my classroom.

That all changed this year when I was introduced to blogging, though! After my students finish a piece of writing, they post their final draft onto our class blog. My kids love posting on the blog because it provides them with a true publishing experience. My students are no longer publishing their work just to share with me, or just to share with their family members. They are actually publishing their writing to the world, and for my fourth graders, this concept is pretty powerful!

The real fun starts after my student's have published their writing. In addition to posting on the blog, my kiddos are able to comment on their peers work. We have had great discussions about what a quality comment is, and how to use good digital citizenship when commenting. My students use a commenting template to guide their thinking. By commenting on each other's work, my students actually communicate in more meaningful ways than I have seen when sharing their writing in other ways. Parents, other classes, our librarian, and even our principals have commented on my student's work too!

(Click on the image above to download my quality comment template!)

In our classroom we use I really like Kidblog because I can control who sees my student's work. It has great privacy settings that make me, and my students feel comfortable when posting online. There is a 30-day free trial, but after 30 days you must subscribe for an annual fee of around $39.00 (which I think is totally worth it)! Try it out, and let me know what you think!

What do you do to create authentic writing experiences for your students?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Let's Talk Science

Mystery Science
Are you looking to spice up your science lessons? I would recommend trying out MYSTERY SCIENCE! About midway through the year, my team and I began using this AMAZING science website, and it has changed our teaching forever!

We were fortunate enough to earn a free trial this year, and we are planning to resubscribe next year. The website has pre-made units that are aligned to the Next Generation Science standards. The units include different "mysteries" that students work though. They are designed for students to learn concepts through the project based learning model. We have completed one unit on rocks and minerals, and we are currently in the middle of the energy unit. I have seen so much growth in my student's thinking since using these lessons because they promote critical thinking and problem solving.

Last week my kiddos built roller coasters and had an absolute blast!

What do you use as your science program?