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 Help Your Students Become Awesome Summarizers!

With the start of  new school year and having students share their chapter summaries,  I decided I needed to explicitly teach my fifth graders how to summarize using the chapters in our novel, “Blood on the River”.  It’s an historical fiction novel about the founding of Jamestown.  Just an FYI,  it’s a great way to incorporate our Social Studies as we study early America.

In the past, won’t lie, I have sort of “guessed and by golly”‘d my way through summarizing.  It is not one of my stronger skills as a teacher.  Partly, I think, because it always seemed so subjective to me.  Well, last week I took the bull by the horns  and began to teach summarizing directly.

My students had summarized chapter 6 of the book as part of their homework.  It became very apparent quickly, that summarizing was needed to be taught explicitly.

As a teacher of 24 years, I am still tickled when my brain pulls out an idea that wasn’t part of my lesson!!!  After all the summaries were read, I went to the board and wrote:

Chapter 6 High Points

Then, as a class, I asked my students to review the chapter with a partner and come up with only six events or ideas that seemed to be very important.  I purposely avoided the words “main idea”.  That term always seemed to make students think there’s only one right answer.  Noooooo….not always!

As partners reported their “high points“,  many were simply supporting details, so as the students shared their ideas, I took their ideas and jotted them on the board.  Together, I helped them “see” the bigger picture of all their ideas. We worked together to put similar ideas into a more general sentence.

For example, in Ch. 6, there is a battle between a whale, thresher shark, and a swordfish that is observed by Captain Smith and Samuel, the main character.  All the students mentioned the battle as an important event, which it was, but the comment from Capt. Smith to Samuel was that no matter how big and powerful you think you are,  the less powerful can work together and bring you down!  That comment helped my kids see that high points in a chapter can be more than just an event.

After the kids and I wrote the six high points together, I had them use those points to create another summary in their reading journals.  I had them compare their first summary with the summary they had just written. The summaries were sooooo much more on point and the kids even remarked at the differences they saw.

It wasn’t me telling the kids what the high points or main ideas were, but all of us working together.  I did the same lesson two chapters later and the summaries showed more depth of thought and relied less on actual events of the chapter.

Give it a try and let me know if your students’ summaries have show growth as you work together!

PS

If you’d like to check out this fabulous novel and the  vocabulary activities and discussion questions I use with my students, just click Blood on the River

 

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!

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!

 

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!

Do You Really Know George & Abraham?

Fact or Fib?

George Washington never told a lie.  Abraham Lincoln walked ten miles to return a nickel.  Theses are some of the “facts” I was taught about these two most beloved and celebrated presidents.  What’s the truth?
                                                      

I went on a hunt for facts about both of these presidents, each of whom have wonderful, but not necessarily true stories about their lives.

sharing is caring!

As I accumulated the facts about George and Abraham, I began to think about how to share these facts with my students.  It was an easy decision to make a game of it all.  Part of why I create products is to make learning fun for my students while also making life easier for my teacher friends. Here was a perfect opportunity to share what I had learned with both my students AND friends!

Celebrate With George and Abraham

I created a “FACT” or “FIB” sort to have students read statements about each of the presidents,  and after discussion, decide whether it’s a fact or a fib.  I have included the answers for teachers.  I also thought it would be fun for students to then take their newly acquired facts and create an acrostic about either president or both!  I’ve included a short assessment or pre/post worksheet and also a Venn diagram to compare the two presidents.

 

Celebrate Presidents’ Day with George and Abraham!

 

What are some and engaging ways you celebrate Presidents’ Day?  Let me know!

Thanks!