Jul 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to...your kids!

Looking for a new, easy way to celebrate student birthdays?  I came across this blog about a woman who decided to do 38 random acts of kindness for her 38 birthday...and I got an idea.  Last year, instead of celebrating birthdays with the usual candy or cheap toys from Dollar Tree, I told the kids we were going to celebrate birthdays in our class by having everyone do random acts of kindness in honor of the birthday person.  We read through the blog together and made a huge list of things we could do around the school to honor each other.  And now, when a birthday pops up, the kids are busy doing acts of kindness for each other and they write a list of their acts, along with a birthday note, for the child to take home at the end of the day.  I love the kindness and they love notes from everyone!  (We still doing the singing and hugs)
Note: At our school, school policy thankfully bans parent food/celebrations.

Jul 27, 2012

Number Sense

To practice ways to make 10, I cut off two sections from an egg carton and the kids used 2-sided counters to show and list different ways they could make 10. (ie. 4 yellow + 6 red = 10)  This year in 4th, I think I'm going to use these bad boys as a concrete way to show multiplication, or the concept of multiplying by 10.

 The kids were really struggling with skip-counting.  So I printed off some cute numbered flip-flops to go with our Hawaiian-themed room and used clear contact paper to stick them to our floor.  Every time we left the classroom, the kids would hop on the flip-flop and say the number on the way out the door.  I'm doing the same in 4th next year, but used higher numbers instead to help with their multiplication facts.  Since our classroom theme is "Treasure Island", I painted it on pieces of wood fence slats with a sign that says "Walk the Plank".

Jul 26, 2012

Making Kids Feel Special

With 25 students, and 25 different personalities and emotions, do you ever feel like it's hard to check in with each kid?  How do you make them feel special and loved by you?  And yet, making that personal connection is what cuts down on behavior problems, increases learning and, frankly, is what makes my job so dear to my heart.  Here's some ways you can build that relationship and love your kids even more!

1. Morning Handshake/Hug: Each morning, I stand at the door and shake the hand of each kid.  I look them in the eye, ask them how they are and actually pause for an answer.  It also gives me a chance to see where each kid is at emotionally that day, talk to everyone individually, notice anyone who's "off", welcome absentees back, etc.  Since the kids jump right into an assignment when they come in each morning, I have the time to talk to everyone as I shake hands (in Kinder & 1st, I gave hugs instead)

2. You Are Fabulous: I found this adorable printable from technology rocks. seriously.  Don't you love it??  I printed off two of them, put them in Dollar Tree frames and stuck 'em on the shelf above our backpack hooks...right where the kids could see them as soon as they came in and multiple times a day.  Each day, I used a dry erase marker to fill it in with a student's name and a reason I thought they were fabulous (you can just write on the glass and wipe it off at the end of the day).

3. Love Notes: I love writing my kids little love notes whenever I have a few few minutes.  Sometimes it's when we're waiting for an assembly to start, sometimes it's when they're checking out their library books.  And I start by writing notes to the kids as if I weren't there.  Then when I have a substitute, I can leave individual notes on each of the kids' desks letting them know how much I appreciate them; keeps behavior in check much better than threats or bribes ever could.

4. Photos: At the beginning of each year, I like to take headshots of each of the kids, print 8x10s and mount them on black construction paper so it looks nicer.  Then I put them on the wall like a photo wall collage, kind of like what you might have in your home.  Makes it feel homey and all lovey. :)  I also take photos of the kids and activities constantly, which slowly accumulate on our classroom door, where the kids see it every day (and remember all the fun things we do in our class!).

Jul 24, 2012

Welcome to Idea Gal! I hope you find some ideas that you can adapt or use in your own classroom.  To start off, I thought I'd post some pictures of my classroom in progress.  I'll be moving up to fourth grade this year, so I had the dreaded task of moving classrooms.  Into a much smaller classroom.  With stuff I've collected over nine years.  All I can say is bless our school's bomb shelter basement for being my temporary storage.  Back to the classroom...here's what I've been working on lately.

My library area, in progress.  Each section on the black bookshelf (IKEA, $139) is a certain Guided Reading level.  That way, the I can limit kids' selection to certain shelves so that they're reading books at their level without knowing and comparing their reading level.  

The white magazine boxes are my Guided Reading sets and the striped ones are the kids' book boxes (IKEA, $2/5).

Oh, the disarray...

My soon-to-be math area and aide's small group area

Our Peace Chairs, for when we have little arguments-explicit steps for working it out

I used cheap burlap for curtains; it filters the light, adds texture and still allows us to see the scenery without being distracting

Writing area

This year I painted all of my bulletin boards a Tiffany blue color.  Yay for no butcher paper, fabric or borders!  It will last years and I can use tape, staples or sticky stuff on it without ruining anything.  I highly recommend it! (with a philosophy that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission)