Tuesday, August 19, 2014

iAM: Fun All About Me Activity

School has been in session for a bit now, and I am getting to know my kids more and more each day.  I have to say, they are a really fun bunch!  They are interested in so many of the things that I am that I thought they would really love to do a fun "Social Media" Get to Know you activity.

So I created these fun little "iPad" looking templates, with four social media interfaces in them.

There is the Instagram page, where I asked the kids to draw a picture of something they did over the summer that really told me about who they were.  This was to be something that wasn't mundane, like watching TV, but something that really got to the heart of their personality....like they went camping because that is how they bond with their family.

The Pinterest page is all about the subjects they like and connect with at school.  The students were to draw a picture of four things they enjoy AT SCHOOL and then a brief description of that activity and why it is special to them.  I tried to steer them towards actual school subjects, like math and reading, as opposed to things like recess.  But some kids did put that on their Pinterest page :)

Facebook was more of a generic "all about me" page for them.  The cover photo was to be of something near and dear to their hearts, and the status updates needed to tell a bit about themselves as well.  The "likes" and "friends" were perfect because they got to draw those people and things that they really liked.

(the original page, that I put inside the ipad frame and added the facebook top to was from Best Teacher Resources on TpT.  You can find it free here if you don't want the frame)

The blog post was to be specifically about their goals as 5th graders.  We did a guided writing for this one (I modeled, they did, I modeled, they did), which forced the kids to think on the fly.  We didn't do any brainstorming.  I just wanted them to think about goals and why they were goals.  That is the blog post they wrote.

The kids then cut them out, and we have them displayed in the room with a sign, "iAM".

Overall, the kids really enjoyed this one. They got to connect to the social media tools they see all around them but in a very safe controlled way.  If you would like the templates, you can get them here (for free of course :)) 

What types of get to know you activities do you do with your students at the beginning of the year?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas: Teacher "Hacks"

Here we are for another installment of the Bright Ideas linky and today, I am going to bring you four ideas that I am using in my classroom for changing ordinary spaces into extraordinary ones.  Ok...maybe they won't go that far, but these things are working for me.  :)

If you follow me on Instagram, you have likely seen these images before.  But, it doesn't hurt to see them again...right? ;)

1.  Bookcase = Teacher Desk
Teacher Desk on a bookcase
I have no teacher desk in my room.  Instead, I put all of my teachery stuff on a very slim bookcase and, viola, an easy to access place for my teaching essentials without taking up the space of a huge, bulky desk!

2.  Anchor Charts on the Windows
Use Command Hooks and a chart pointer to create an anchor chart display area anywhere in the room.
To use the dead space on my windows, I took some Command Hooks and an extra pointer (because, seriously, I have a million of them) and created an anchor chart holder there.  (I will be honest and say I saw a version of this on a bulletin board on Pinterest, but I moved it to my dead space instead)  I am LOVING this one!

3.  Tag board Student Work Displays

Make work display stands using heavy tag board.
I needed to display some student work for Open House, but had no where to put it other than on top of my cupboards.  So using hard tagboard (about 24" long and 9" wide) folded in half, then connected with two 4 inch pieces of tagboard, I was able to create these useful stands to display the work!

4.  Graffiti Wall Door of Learning
Creating a Graffiti Wall of Learning
To keep a fun record of all of our learning this year, I covered my door with butcher paper.  At the end of each day, I call two or three students to name something we learned over the course of our 6 hours together.  Then, those student write it on our door.  By the end of the year, we will have a graffiti wall of learning!

So there you have it.  Some fast, fun, simple ideas for your classroom.  Want to learn more?  My friends linked below have some great ideas....no BRIGHT ideas for you!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Beginning of the Year Math Diagnostic

I find that having data on the students to begin the year is quite helpful in creating groups, gauging where to start with your students, and basically having a good grasp of the ability levels of your class as a whole.  (I know, everyone just let out a big "DUH" right now...)

However, this past year while we are in transition to CCSS, we didn't have a state test.  I mean, we took a practice one geared to see how it would actually go on the computers and such, but we didn't have one that would give us any end of the year data on the kids.  Consequently, we don't have anything now that we can use to help us gauge our class.  There is just no major source of data in math and language arts for us to draw on.

So I had to make something myself....and I wanted to share it with you.

This is a 5th grade Beginning of the Year math assessment.  It has all of the 4th grade math standards in a multiple choice format just so I can see what the kids know and what they are struggling with.

 I also made a nice little data breakdown sheet so I can see at a quick glance just what skills the class as a whole needs help with, what they have mastered, and who in particular needs remediation on what.  You can click here to see how I actually use this type of sheet weekly in my class.

Well, anyway, I just wanted to share the test with you.  4th grade teachers, feel free to use it as an end of year assessment :)  Click here to access and download the test.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

First Day Seating Tip

I just wanted to share a little first day seating tip with you that I have been doing for years.  Actually, it didn't seem like much of a tip until I was talking to a colleague about it and she said that she had never thought of that before and it sounded like a blog post to her! ;)

Where will each student choose to sit?
Anyway, the first day of school, I intentionally leave all of the seats open.  I don't put name tags down at all.  I allow the students to sit next to whomever they wish and wherever they would like. 

I know.  I gasp just went out amongst some of you. 

How could I leave such an uncertainty up to chance?  What if the kids choose the wrong person to sit next to?   They may.....TALK!  Ahhhh! 

Yeah, I know.

But here is why I do it.

By allowing the students to sit where they want on the first day, they are telling me a few things.  First, I am able to see who is an "eager beaver" and who is a "shrinking violet".  I can easily spot those who are staying back and those who race to the front to be near me.  Secondly, I can tell who is friends with whom.   Kids (just like adults) tend to sit with their friends when given a choice.  Third, and most importantly, the talkers show themselves immediately.  They just can't contain their excitement...and couple that with sitting by their friends....

By allowing the students this little freedom in the beginning of class, I am able to gauge them and get an immediate feeling for who they are as a whole and individually. 

What is one way you get a feel for your class in those first few hours of your first day?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Classroom Economy: Day Three

Here we are, in part three of the series on a Classroom Economy.  If you missed what to do on Day One or Day Two, just go read them and come back.  I will be waiting here for you.  :)

Day Three:

Today, the focus is on expenses and fines.  Students are ALWAYS curious about this part, and holding them off until the third day of school is sometimes hard.  However, I really want to focus on the positive, so I tend to keep this part on the back burner for a little bit.  On the first few days of school, the kids are usually in the honeymoon phase.  They are very well behaved and on-task, so keeping the fines discussion until day three generally tends to be OK.

By this point, they have *seen* the expenses and fines.  I have them posted in my classroom and they are on the Register Cards I give them.  But I haven't actually explained them in full detail (other than in the overview on day one, when I skim through it.)

So we start off, of course, with reviewing how to enter money into the register.  They have earned $1 for coming to school on time, so I make sure that they have entered that.  We then do a quick count of our money.  I want them to make sure that their cash in hand is the same as their register total.

Trying to keep a little more on the "positive" side, I tend to start in more detail with the expenses.  Here is where I talk about RENT.  Yes.  My students pay rent to me.  Just like I can't live in a house without paying my mortgage, they can't live in my classroom with out paying rent.

Now, I purposefully make the rent rather low.  They can earn the total amount for their rent in a week (between the earning and their classroom jobs.)  I don't want them to be struggling.  BUT I do want them to feel as if their money is being used for something.  So when they see $8 for Desk Rental, you better believe their eyes bug out just a bit!

I then point to the school supply expenses.  Specifically, the Text Book Rental.  Again, by now, I have been doling out money like CRAZY!  I make sure that all of my students have a ton of money.  The reason is that I now take their first expense.  They need to pay me to rent their text books for the year.  It is a flat fee of $10 for all the books.  So the students take out their registers and wallets, and we go through the very first collection of money. 

I show them how to input this into their register (the description line would be "text book rental" and then a subtraction sign goes in the debt section.)

Then, we talk about fines.  Unlike the Earnings, ALL of them are cut and dry.  The reason for this is simple.  I want my students to know *exactly* what it is that I expect out of them in class.  If I write, "Messy Desk....$1.50" they know they can not have a messy desk or they will get fined.  But if I am ambiguous and write, "Doing bad things.....varies", the students don't know what behaviors I am expecting of them.  So for the fines, I like to be as explicit as possible. 

Once we have reviewed all of the various fines, we talk about how they really are easy to avoid.  The kids can easily do all of their homework.  Of course they won't damage materials.  Putting their names on papers?  Easy to do!

It is the bathroom one that always gets the most hands.  I simply explain to them that if they always have $5 in their wallet, they won't have a problem at.all.  And, to be honest, it really is a non-issue.  The kids get it.  They keep $5 in their wallets and whenever they have to go to the bathroom, they simply bring it up to me and go.  No big deal on  my end.  No big deal on their end.  Really.  Honestly.  I promise you.

Again, this only works if you are actually GIVING OUT money too.  So stick with the positive and continue to give out money like water in these first few days of school.

One trick I have is to just keep money in your pocket.  When you walk by someone doing good, place the money on the desk without even saying anything and move on.  The kids quietly take out their register, enter it, and move on.  It takes all of a minute once you have the routine in place. 

OK...so now that everything is basically introduced, I take Day Four and introduce the classroom jobs.  I have actually already written about them, so you are in luck!  Go to this post here to read all about how I manage the jobs!

What questions do you have for me now?