Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Toy Story (Part Two)

It's time for Part Two of my blog post on using toys in the classroom.
If you didn't read Part One yet, head on back and read that one first.
After reading Part One, you know my rationale for using toys in the classroom... even with students who are eleven and twelve. It's just difficult not to smile and pay attention when a toy is around to symbolize things like:

Good job!
Your team has earned points!
This is IMPORTANT! Listen up!
Isn't this FUNNY?
and most importantly...
Don't zone out! This is going to be FUN!

Let's face it. Teaching punctuation is never the most exciting thing. However, there are some things I do that actually make my students seem to ENJOY punctuation.

One is my partnership with an old favorite, Mr. Victor Borge. Okay, so we're not exactly partners, but I adore him (may he rest in peace). I may be getting up there in years, but he IS a bit before my time. However, I grew up in a household where we knew and sometimes actually liked the things our parents liked. 

Victor was one of my favorites because of his phonetic punctuation. He inspired me to use it in my own classroom. My students laugh from the minute I start introducing it to them. If you don't know what phonetic punctuation is or have never seen the master at work, take a look at this video. It's not one I use for class (not with the kissing part! Haha!), but it's my favorite. You could also take a look at it if you just want to smile. In fact, I dare you to watch him and NOT smile! 
I use this method in my classroom every year, and my students just can't get enough of it. I have changed the sounds a bit to suit my own preferences, but the idea is the same. When we check dialogue practice aloud, students must read it and put in the punctuation sounds. It is so much fun! If you've never tried it, you must give it a chance!

You can also incorporate toys by using some fun noisemakers to represent the punctuation sounds as well! Here are some of my favorite exclamation marks. If you've ever heard these toys make their sound, you know just how perfect they are for punctuation...and how you HAVE to smile when you hear them. 
In facts, kids like just about anything that makes a silly noise or lights up. Why not jazz up your classroom with these types of toys? I sometimes use them to signal double participation points or that an important question is coming up. 

Have you ever seen the wooden toys with the little doors that open or shapes that come off? Melissa and Doug make some great ones! They are for younger kids, I know, but my students are fascinated by them because I HIDE things behind the doors. I can hide questions, point values, challenges, etc. There is just something so magical about opening up a little door and not knowing what you'll find!

I also have a magnetic fishing one where you use a fishing rod. I put review questions on fish-shaped cards, and then teams have to fish for their bonus points. They get SO EXCITED as they find out how many points are hidden behind each fish!
A colleague of mine always uses a basketball hoop in his room during review games. He divides the students into teams. If the team gets the question right, someone from the team comes up to try his/her hand at the basket (they take turns). He creates lines on the floor with masking tape and each student who shoots decided where to stand. This determines how many points the team gets. Each line is worth a certain number of points, and if you make the basket, you earn that amount of extra points for your team.

I found some fun and REALLY INEXPENSIVE hoops at a site called Office Playground. They have the kind that mount that you could rig up on your chalkboard, etc. and the kind that are freestanding.
I hope you will be inspired to bring some toys into your own classroom this year! It is so much fun to watch your students' eyes light up from the wonder of it all!

Before I end, I would like to mention a new product which was created because of requests from some of the readers here on All Things Upper Elementary. A few months back, I wrote an ATUE post entitled Short Stories in the Classroom. You can read that post if you like by clicking the photo below.
After I wrote this post, many people contacted me looking for a short story packet similar to the one I talked about in my blog post. That packet was specifically for the story I used in the post, so I wasn't much help in sending it to them. Many people wanted one that would work for ANY short story. 

Well, I have finally created one that will work for any fictional short story. What's great about it is you can use it all together like a packet (which really helps with organization while covering a short story) or just use individual sheets for certain stories. It's called Short Story Sleuths (A Comprehension/ Reading Skills Packet) and it's now available in my TpT shop. Thanks, ATUE readers, for the inspiration!

Until next time, happy summer, friends!


  1. Replies
    1. I think I'd like to watch Victor every morning! He would definitely put me in a good mood! Glad you enjoyed it! :)

  2. Love the idea of using toys in the classroom-it is a visual signal to kids that wakes them up and it can take stress and intimidation out of learning

    1. I agree! I can't emphasize enough what a difference in makes in their attitude and interest. :)

  3. I too use Victor Borge! Most of them have never heard of him, and end up watching PBS when they run his specials because they love this part. :) Sure helps bring attention to all the punctuation marks too! I even had one student use the sounds during Writers Workshop as he was editing! "Oh, I need...."! It was great!

    1. He is the best! I love everything about him, and he just makes me smile. (Maybe I have a little crush, but we won't tell my husband that part...) You can't beat his delivery. I watch the old specials, too!

      That cracks me up about your student using the marks aloud as he was editing! Too funny! It really does make an impact on them!

  4. I loved the video! I will try it out next week.
    The E-Z Class

    1. Great! I hope your students will enjoy it. It really livens up punctuation! :)


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