Want a terrific teaching solution to your early finisher problems?

This happened in my early teaching career just about this time of year.  School had been in session for a few weeks and my students had mastered stations/center behavior…almost.  I had several students who  quickly completed their station work and despite being warned, always came to my small group to tell me, “I’m done, so what can I do now?”  I would have to stop and quickly find another activity to engage my early finishers.  In the meantime, I have lost the attention of my small guided group.  Picture me tearing out my hair!!!

Too often, the follow-up activities were just more paperwork.  In desperation one weekend, I created a group of task cards that encompassed many different activities.  I put them up on one of my bulletin boards with the heading CHALLENGE BOARD! Each student was given a Challenge Folder with their name on it.   I showed the board to the class and explained that IF each of them finished the station they were supposed to do early, they could come and choose ANY task card activity.  They could work on their chosen activity until time to come back to whole group.

I also explained the Challenge Board could also be their morning work activity choice as they came into class each morning.  That way ALL my students could be working on a challenge activity, regardless of early finishing of stations.

This was a life saver for me!  Everyone was busy AND my students had choices for their work!!!  Besides my October Enrichment Challenges (just click the pics!)  I also have enrichment challenges for Halloween Activities for Early Finishers and Holiday Enrichment and Challenges for Early Finishers.  Just click the link to find more challenges and enrichment activities!!

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How To Begin The Year Positive

Every teacher enters the classroom on the first day of school with high hopes and expectations.  I sure do!  Well, this year, instead of hoping the year stays positive, I decided take direct  steps to keep my students on the positive path and off the side  paths of negativity.  So what am I doing?  I’m so glad you asked!!!

*THE WRINKLED HEART activity :  A few years ago I saw this on  Pinterest and  “grabbed” this activity with both hands!!!  I wish I could find the person who first posted this idea because I’d hug them!!  This activity is a winner!

Give each student a sheet of red construction paper.  Have your students fold their paper and then cut out a heart.  Size doesn’t matter.  After their heart is cut out, ask your students to wad up their heart and WHISPER insults to the heart….just a short time!  Don’t want the students to get carried away.  After a minute or two of whispers, I ask the students to smooth out their heart and tell it , “I was just playing” or “I was just kidding”.   Have them continue to smooth out their heart.  Then ask the students if the marks on the heart disappeared after telling the heart they were “just kidding” or “just playing”.    Of course the marks are still there.  I remind the students that their hearts are just like the hearts they insulted.  While the words may be gone, the heart still shows the scars…just like our hearts can be scarred by careless or negative words.    It really got to my students…as I had hoped.  Words have power to scar and we resolved to make sure our words didn’t leave scars on anyone’s heart this year.

 

Let me know how you build community in your own classroom.

Thanks!

Growing Thinkers One Inspiring Quote At A Time

i’m just a level 2

With all the testing pressure we teachers have all felt, our students, themselves, feel that pressure even more, and too often their self-worth becomes tied to their test results…”I’m a Level 2″; “I’m not a Level 5”; and so on.  It REALLY bothered me when I heard my students talk like that!  I couldn’t seem to change their minds, so I started looking for a way to share with  my students inspiring words from other people and then have my students apply those encouraging words to their own life.

inspiration

I decided to create a collection of inspiring quotes from many different people.  I also decided my students needed to know a little about the person, especially if the person was not familiar to students.  So each person’s page has their quote and a short bio about the person.  I also decided that my students needed to do more than just look at the quote and read the biography.  Here’s one of my students responding to Henry Ford’s quote!

 

This became our Wednesday morning meeting!  Here’s what I did…first I had my students copy the quote into their writing journals.  Then my students read the biography.  Each page also had questions for my students to record their answers to go along with the person’s quote.  I didn’t leave it right there.  Once, everyone had finished writing their answers, the class then discussed both the quote and their answers to the questions on the page.

It really amazed me how so many of my students took the quotes to heart…it was what I had hoped for!  It’s Growth Mindset .  Check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

A Fabulous Sale You SHOULDN’T Miss!

it’s SAving season!!!

Hi folks!  So many of our colleagues are in testing or review mode right now.  It is NOT a time that any teacher likes.  I sometimes think that the time  AFTER testing is the hardest time of all!  A lot of students see the tests as the end of the school year and yet as many of us know, there are still weeks of school left!!!

#SPRINGSAVINGS to the rescue!

Today and tomorrow, there is a fabulous sale going on right now on TeacherspayTeachers!  Over 600 products have been discounted 50% !!!  Use the hashtag #SPRINGSAVINGS to locate them  Here’s your opportunity to grab some new activities that will engage your students and keep them from zoning out after testing is over!!

Use the #SPRINGSAVINGS and have fun perusing all the goodies!  Good hunting and may your new lessons engage your students and make your last weeks of school smooth fun and engaging!

 

Make Earth Day Fun and Meaningful

Two for the Price of One!

With Earth Day right around the corner,  those pesky end of the year tests are also beginning to show on the horizon, too.  As  a public school teacher,  I was ALWAYS looking for thematic activities that would also help my students sharpen their tested skills.  Sort of a twofer!  I think my Earth Day Activities will do both for you!

earth day 1970

Earth Day itself began in 1970 and was the brainchild of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.  He was very concerned that the Earth’s environment did not seem to be an important political issue and his first Earth Day drew millions of people to his cause.  Later that year President Nixon and Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency as a result along with legislation concerning both water and Endangered Species Act.

Earth day today!

In the 48 years since that first Earth Day, there has been a lot  more awareness of our need to recycle, reuse, and reduce.  I decided to combine facts about cleaning our environment with my students need to practice their math skills.  As a result, I created 24 word problems that will help my students learn how recycling can help improve our environment AND work on their problem solving skills at the same time!  I love being able to combine two school subjects; in this case, science and math within a single lesson!!

 

I also added a fun activity using Earth Day vocabulary.  My kids love, love word searches and so my Earth Day Activities also include a word search AND a writing activity!  I also included answer keys for both the 24 math problems and the word search.  Take a look and let me make your Earth Day lesson a snap!

 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Earth-Day-Activities-3755809

What are you doing for Earth Day?  Share your ideas with me!

 

Kick worksheets to the curb and engage your students!

Mid Year slump

Check this scenario…It’s March and you’re lesson planning for next week.  Suddenly, you look at what you’ve written!  It’s the same as what you have written for this week…Intro, teach lesson, practice worksheet, assign homework, moving on!  Where did the beginning of the school year eagerness and fun activities go?  I know, I know….those activities got lost in the day to day paperwork, school meetings, pacing guides, benchmark testing…and on and on!  I know because I’ve been there many, many times!  You’re draggin’ and so are your lessons!

What to do?

I decided to look back at my beginning of the year lesson and WALAA!  It was right there in front of me…activities that I used before the day to day of school dragged me down!  I want to share some ideas with you and I hope you’ll do the same for me, as I am always lookin’ to add to my own bag of “tricks”!

here we go!!!

#1  Dictionary Dash!!!  I teach reading using novels and one of my favorite is Blood on the River.  It’s a historical fiction novel about the founding of Jamestown.  The vocabulary in the novel can be a challenge, but the idea of making students sitting at their desks,  looking up definitions of unknown words and writing them in their journal gave me chills!!

Dictionary Dash to the rescue…My students, the year I created it,  were VERY competitive and this was right up their alley.  I let my kids partner with a friend and gave each pair a dictionary.  On my white board I created a chart:     Word                      Part of Speech                    Definition

I wrote the vocabulary word in the “Word” column and then I said, “Go!”  The first group that located the word got the privilege of writing the part of speech and definition on the board.  When all the words were defined and written on the board, the students then copied down the vocabulary words into their journals.  My students BEG to play this game once I have them play it.

While I have used it for reading, I have also used this game in Science and Social Studies.  Let your imagination be your guide!!

#2 Task Cards!!!! 

  Love, love, love task cards!  The cards lend themselves to SOOOO many uses and really energize my students.  I print them out on card stock, laminate, and they are ready!!

A Pass A Problem  I put one or two cards on each student’s desk.  I have my students record the number on the task card on their answer sheet and then solve the problems.  They record their answers and put their hands on their shoulders.  This lets me know and once students have recorded their answers, they move to the next desk and start the process of recording and solving the task card problem.  The students move clockwise around the room solving problems at each desk.  When the students arrive back at their desk, the game is over and now the class checks their answers.

B.  Station/center lesson  They can be differentiated to meet the needs of all your students very easily.  Print the cards on different colored paper and WALAA!  Stations/center planning done!  Here are a couple of examples I use with my class.  Click on them to check out some of my task cards or the  Upper Elementary Measurement Activities task cards located  in my TpT store.

2c. Small guided group lessons  Task cards fit really well into small group lessons.  They allowed me to really  differentiate my tasks without spending a lot of time looking for the exact activity.  Task cards made it a snap! to meet the needs of all the levels of my students and reinforce what had been taught or reviewed in the whole group lesson.

3.  Whiteboard Jeopardy!!!  My first year at a new school left me without a SMARTboard so I created a paper and pencil version of Jeopardy.  I created a grid with letter columns across the whiteboard and numbers down the whiteboard.  Within each box of the grid, I placed an index card with such messages as “100 pts.” or “Lose 25 pts.” and placed them face down on the white board with magnets.  The students were placed on two teams and each team was given a question to answer.  If correct, the students then chose a card using the grid addresses.  The message was read and points added or subtracted.  Teams also could win extra turns.  The game is only limited by the creator’s imagination.  I like to use this one for review.

I hope some of my ideas have generated some more ideas for you!  Please share what you do to overcome the mid year slump that seems to grab us every year!!!

Thanks!

 

 

 

How I Improved My Grammar Lessons By Not Teaching!

when students talk, i listen

A few weeks ago, in the midst of coming in from recess, I was given the word by several students that my English lessons were boring  less engaging than some of my other subject lessons.  Now I could have gotten angry, or bent out of shape, or any other teacher emotion that comes to mind when told a lesson was not all that it could be.  Truth be told, my lessons had gotten stale…that after holidays, after January, waiting for Presidents’ Day time of year.  I won’t lie, grammar often got the short end of the stick in the day as I tried to fit everything in, as I am a self-contained fifth grade teacher!

Students step up!

While I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years, I’m pretty open to new ideas to improve the learning in my classroom.  Trust me, I’ve known a few  “done it this way for years so why change?.” teachers.  That’s not me, so I tuned in with all ears as I entered the conversation.  “How could I fix the lessons?, ” was what I asked.  Imagine my surprise when one of my best students asked if she could teach the next lesson!  We were both surprised when the words, “Sure, let’s do this!,” came out of my mouth.  Next thing I knew, several more students volunteered to teach lessons.

How do I do this, Teacher?

I sat down with my first volunteer and together we chose the lesson…Object Pronouns!  We chose a date…three days in the future and I gave her my teacher edition.  “I’ve got this, Mrs. Mescall” was what I heard until the day of the lesson.

D-Day or should I say T-Day (teach)!  My student did an amazing job…she taught us with a fun game using large dice.  The students rolled the two dice of different colors.  Each number on one of the dice corresponded to a specific object pronoun.  The second dice numbers corresponded to a specific subject pronoun.  Students then took those two pronouns and created a sentence with both pronouns used correctly.  The students loved the game and my teacher student then walked around checking sentences and having the class read their sentences!    SCORE!!  It was a good lesson and I will totally be stealing her game for another time!!!

Lining Up!

Our second student-led  lesson was about possessive pronouns.  I again shared my teacher edition and  that Brainpop had a good videos and activities.  My second student-led class was also a success! My second student’s lesson was more digital and the class really enjoyed it.   We did so well as a class that we were rewarded with “thin mints” as we were “smart cookies”!

Have I totally given up teaching grammar and English…not really.  I do still teach them both, but I have continued to offer the opportunity to teach the class.  Several more students are eager to teach and I will certainly be letting them try out their teaching skills!

Thanks,

 

 

I do have some games and activities you might want to try to add some fun and spice to your English lessons!  Check out the links below!

A fun game with verb tenses!

Here are activities to help master there, their, and they’re!

Here are 3 levels of antonyms to meet the needs of all!