Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Cooperative Games Activities

Hello ATUE Readers,

It's Kristy from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog. I cannot believe that Christmas is over and I am writing this blog post hours away from 2014. I still remember the Y2K scares and I remember ringing in the 1990's. Where does time go?

The days back to school after the holiday break are key to re-establishing and reminding students of the tone of your classroom community. This is a great time to reinforce the classroom norms, rules and expectations you have for your students. They will need time to adjust back to the routines of school after being on holidays.

The first few days back are a great time to use cooperative games in your classroom.

Earlier this year I organized a cooperative games morning for the Grade 8 students that I teach. They rotated through three stations: spaghetti tower construction, mural paper graffiti wall and quick team building activities.

1. Spaghetti Tower Construction 

Provide students with an equal amount of spaghetti (10-20 pieces per group), some masking tape and an equal amount of marshmallows (approx 4) and tell them they need to create the tallest freestanding structure as a group. Set a timer and let their imagination thrive. The key is to explain freestanding - because you will have students that try to tape all the pieces together and hold it up. Have a meter/yard stick handy to measure each groups' creation.

2. Mural Paper Graffiti Wall

Have students watch an inspiration video from You Tube or another source to get them thinking before they graffiti. A great video from You Tube is 212 Degrees: Turn Up the Heat it visually represents for students what can happen if they put one extra degree into their work. After the video have students use markers to free write their ideas onto chart or mural paper about the theme of the video. Have them use creative fonts and doodles to get their messages across. Hang up these papers around the classroom or the school. 

3. Quick Team Building Activities

Have students participate in a few of these activities to help build a community of learners. 

Bench Switch: Have a group (depending on the size of the bench and class) of students line up on a large gym bench. Then call out instructions for the students to line up by birthday, height, favourite foods etc. They must change places without falling off the bench. If anyone puts a foot on the ground the activity starts over again.

Noun Finder: Prepare ahead of time sets of noun cards (celebrities, famous places, foods, etc). When students arrive tape a card to their back and have them mingle around the room asking questions about their noun. They cannot ask others to read their card to them, but can ask many questions to try and guess what the card says on their back. 

For more team building activities check out this blog post on my site with detailed instructions and how to videos. 

Happy New Years Eve and 2014!

Kristy @ 2 Peas and a Dog 

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Reflections: Academic and Social

With all the "pre holiday jitters" behind us, I like to encourage my students to reflect back on what they've learned so far this year, both academically and socially. 

In order to reflect on their academics, I like to use the "color by numbers" system I found on Pinterest here:

As we go over the results of a test, the kids color in the problems they got wrong, then anonymously leave them in a pile to be glued to a file folder.  This way we, as a class, can see what we need to review.  I've been doing this sort of data collection myself for ages (on a blank roster, with x's and o's instead of color) but I feel like the kids are more informed when they see not all questions are the same difficulty-wise.    

As far as fourth grade social skills go, my group this year are pretty good at working together.  Last year my group got really ratty with each other around the holidays, so I took more drastic measures which I described on my blog here.  And although it was a good experience for them, I'm going to save that activity for later this year.  Either when they really need it, or if they stay even keel, it's a nice end of the year activity. 

Instead of writing to each other to build better working relationships with each other, I'll be referring the kids to another great Pinterest find:  our GROUPS and PARTNERS posters.  I altered mine slightly to reflect the reminders needed for specific students in my class, but if you'd like similar free small posters I found them on Pinterest as shown below.

How will you get your students back into the swing of things in January?  


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ring in the New Year with Ideas from Pinterest

Hello friends! This is Jennifer from Teaching to Inspire in 5th, and I hope all of you had a great holiday and spent some quality time with your family and friends.

Speaking of quality time, I wanted to share with you some great Pinterest boards to help you get ready for the New Year, and save some precious family time!

First up is my own personal Pinterest board for New Year's Ideas. I just started this board, so it will have tons of new freebies and ideas added over the next few days! Click here or on the image to see the board.


And here are two other great boards! Just click on the links to check them out!

New Years in the Classroom from Marcy (Simply Sprout)

Happy New Year from More than a Worksheet

I hope you find some great ideas to help you transition back to school and start the New Year off the right way!

Have a Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

Happy Holidays from all of us at All Things Upper Elementary!

Enjoy your time with family and friends. We will resume posting on December 26th. See you then!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Relax, Rejuvenate, Enjoy! (with a free New Year's craftivity!)

Deb from Crafting Connections is sending you warm Christmas greetings from snowy Iowa!

Every educator I know is now on holiday break until after New Year's!  I must admit, I LOVE the one day each December when I get to say these oh-so-trite words to my students as they walk out the school doors:

Background by RedPepper!

Anyway, I thought I'd share with you a few challenges I am giving myself for Christmas break.  Perhaps you will want to challenge yourself to some of these same goals!

1.  I challenge myself to RELAX.  Yes, I could make another batch of treats for the cookie trays we'll be delivering to the neighbors, I could look for a unique little gift for my girls' religious ed teachers, I could... there are a million (and one!) things I could do.  But I am challenging myself to NOT do anything on my Could list!  Anything not worthy of going onto a Must list is getting nixed!

2.  I challenge myself to LET GO of the stresses of the school year.  You know what I'm talking about... the x, the y, the z.  I have no doubt they will be awaiting my return to school on January 2, but between now and then, I'm going to make a heroic effort to let them go!

3.  I challenge myself to ENJOY the blessings surrounding me!  Enjoy a quiet evening with the family watching movies (without the computer on my lap in order to multitask), enjoy sleeping in, enjoy observing Christmas through the eyes of my nine- and six-year-old daughters...

So, I'm off to RELAX, REJUVENATE, and ENJOY!  Before I go, though, I've got a little Christmas gift of sorts to share with you.  I hope you enjoy this flash freebie New Year's craftivity!  Perhaps you can use it the first day back at school... my hope is that it will require little effort to prepare, thus allowing you a bit more time to spend with the people you care about this holiday season.  Just click on the link above or the image below; it will be free at my TpT store through Saturday, December 28!

Credits to artists Krista Wallden, Lovin Lit, Mrs. Leeby, and Hello Literacy!

Best wishes to you and yours... and SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Year, New Me (Mobile Activity)

Greetings My ATUE Friends!
It is so nice to be stopping by with my monthly post! I don't know about you, but I can't believe that today starts my Christmas vacation. HOLEY MOLEY! Keep the theme from Leanne, here is my take on the new year!  
    With Christmas Break knocking on our doors and the hope of a nice break from the routine of recess duty, correcting assignments, and endless meetings a heart-warming thought ready to happen, you may NOT want to think about those first few days back. After all, if you are like ME, you will want to just pretend school is our for the summer break.

     Sadly, the reality of school will hit us about December 29th, and we will hit panic mode! Now NO ONE should have to worry about the new year with New Year's Eve and Day that needs to be celebrating!

Enter the solution:

This fun activity is PERFECT for students in most every grade. Students are asked to reflect on the past year and set goals for the coming year! They look AMAZING hanging for the ceiling in your classroom, hallway, or even on the wall!

Here a couple of pictures from MY classroom:

I LOVED how they looked last year, and I am excited to see them hanging again this year! If you want a more detailed post about them, visit MY blog post by clicking HERE!

I am confident that this will be one of the best activities you will do in the new year! You can get your OWN FREE copy simply by visiting my Teachers Pay Teachers shop HERE.

From all of us here are Created by MrHughes, have a most joyous Christmas and a wonderful new year!

Mr. Hughes

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Year...New You {In Poetry}

As a writer, I have always enjoyed poetry.  There is just so much you can do with it!  As a reader, you can make inferences, determine a theme, ask questions, explore the mood, and the list goes on.  As a writer, you are able to use figurative language and add similes, metaphors, and personification to your work. So much can be studied and created with one simple poem.  Additionally, if you are nervous about exploring close reading, you can begin with a poem. Students who are usually intimidated by long pieces of text with size nine font are suddenly ready to try a close read when it is the form of a poem. I have always found a place for poetry in my ELA classroom because it is so versatile!
With the new year quickly approaching, students may want to create their own resolutions.  They may engage in goal setting activities to guide the remainder of their school year. A great way to encourage this type of thinking is to have each student create an "I Am" poem.  Students will truly enjoy sharing who they are and what they are about.  Spend some time discussing how the new year is a time for transformation.  Students could even write two poems:  one for who they were before the new year and one for who they are (or hope to be) after the new school year.
When I teach this, I begin by sharing a sample "I Am" poem such as the one below.  Although I have provided a picture of this, I did not include a copy because I think it is best when teachers share about their own lives as a model.  It is much more interesting for students to learn about you than it is for them to have a random model.  To make, use a piece of chart paper set up like this:
Be sure to model your thinking as you create your own poem so students can use the same thinking as they are writing.
You can copy the template from the link below to create a poster to write on if your school has a poster maker.  If not, chart paper will work!  Don't forget the technology available to you!  This could also be inserted into an interactive chart on the classroom whiteboard.
As another option, make the poem interactive!  Here are some directions for making this activity interactive.  Just click on the link to print your instructions. 
Below you can click to have a copy of the this version.  It would look great on patterned scrap paper or added into an interactive notebook!  These could also hang in the hallway or on a bulletin board for a cute New Year's display.  Hang them around the room and have the students do a gallery walk to learn about their peers.  If you have an idea of how to use this creatively, be sure to comment and let others know about it!
For an extra special display, have students create a collage of photos to accompany their poetry!
If you like these poetry activities, you can find more like them in one of my latest resources, "The Ultimate Poetry Pack."  There are over 100 pages of posters, journal activities, and poetry fun for your upper grades students!
I hope you have fun celebrating your students through poetry in the new year!  Remember to take pictures if you choose to try these activities!  We could display them on the ATUE Facebook page to share with other teachers.  (Hint:  Only photograph the poetry and not the students.  Do not include any student names in your pictures.)  Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's Almost Winter Break! Brain Busters FREEBIE

Hi, friends! It's Blair from One Lesson at a Time. Say it with me now....Winter Break is almost here. Winter Break is almost here. These last few days can really be doozies, right?! I just wanted to share a fun little freebie that you can use to help keep yourself sane this week - AND keep your kiddos engaged!

These "Reindeer Games Brain Busters" are fun math puzzles that will help sharpen your students' number sense and math skills. And they are free - so yay!
Just click on the cover below to download them free from Google Drive!
If you like this set, I have a bunch more "Brain Busters" products in my store. You can click on the picture below to check them out:
If you are looking for more winter holiday resources to get you through this week, here are a few more available in my store - you can click on each cover to check it out on TpT:
Here's one more freebie to get you ready to come back after break - I know, I know....that's SO not what we want to be thinking about right now!!! :) But, I always love knowing I have a few go-to activities for those first few days of the new year. This fun little New Year's activity packet is a cute way to ring in 2014 with your kiddos. Click on the cover to download it free from TpT:
Alrighty, folks - that's a wrap for Blair Turner's 2013 ATUE blog posts! Thanks so much for reading and I can't wait to check back in with you in 2014! No matter what you celebrate, I hope you make time to eat, drink, and be merry over vacation! And most importantly - RELAX. You deserve it!!

Until next year...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Discussions 911!

Hello folks . . . life has been a little crazy, so I wanted to share back to a blog post from last year that has made such a difference for me!  I hope maybe you can get some ideas from it as well!

Instead, I wanted to chat a little about the historical fiction book groups I am trying this year.  We read Sarah, Plain and Tall as a class--with me reading the first and last chapters and the students working in book clubs to read and process the rest.  We did some practice responding to prompts and talking about the book in a fairly structured way.  I used a bunch of pages from my Sarah Plain and Tall unit I have for sale--and the writing activities in it showed me I have a LONG way to go with helping them be better "responders" to reading!  ( . . . but I already knew that--I can't lie)  So ready to hear why is THIS anchor chart hanging in my room now?

After finishing Sarah, Plain and Tall, we refocused our concentration on the elements of historical fiction.  We spent a ton of time talking about how the setting affects the story--especially the concept of "era" . . . and how often books are set in a certain "era" and the authors and illustrators give us clues.  We talked about  life in different eras. . .  the colonial days . . .  the pioneering days . . .  the Civil War era . . . life during the world wars and the Great Depression . . . the fifties . . .  and so on.  My students literally hung on my words as I told different stories to them to help them develop their understanding of life in this different time periods.  We pulled out nonfiction texts to study the era that Sarah lived and we really started to put the pieces together.

This week, we moved into the second phase of the unit--where the students will be reading self-selected historical fiction books and meeting in the same book clubs they had for Sarah, Plain and Tall.  We divided the books into 4 parts and set a schedule.  They would be responsible for reading and responding to some written "pausing points" that would then help them in discussions.  Today was our first attempt.  The first writing prompt they had to address asked them to reflect on their main character and what they had learned so far about him/her.  On the Smartboard I posted:

What have you learned about the character so far?

What is a quick overview of the key events of the story to this point?

What information have you discovered about the era in which the story takes place?

Now, I have to tell you--this is NOT the first time my class has met in groups and NOT the first time we have had book discussions.  I had two groups go at a time in separate corners, and I flitted between them listening.  I spoke not a word and just waited to see how things would unfold.  Let's just say . . .  things didn't unfold terribly well.  I knew I had to do something, but I wasn't sure what.  I considered doing a "Fishbowl" activity where one group could watch another group have a discussion (and we may still do this), but instead, I decided I hadn't done a decent enough job laying out my expectations.

I pulled them together as a group and showed them the following "mental model".  I explained that I was represented by the circle, and they were the X's.  I let them know that sometimes in our class,  this is how I taught.  I was the leader, and they were the receivers of information.  I might ask questions, they might respond--and that's what the lines represented.  I reminded them that it doesn't happen TOO often, but sometimes this is how the class works.  They nodded--they got it.

Then I showed them this diagram.  I explained that today I saw the book groups operating with this model.  A small group of students sat together, one shared, then the next, and so on.  In fact, I even heard one student say in a monotone "Neeeeeext!" when he was done sharing.  I explained that in this model, it felt as though one person was "reporting" information to the others, but I couldn't tell if the others were interested or listening at all.  A few students chimed in that this was, indeed, what their group was like today.  

I then showed them yet another diagram of one group I saw working . . . 

. . . and we talked about how sometimes one student acts almost like a teacher or a leader in the group.  I asked them if they thought this was a good model.  We had a nice discussion about how sometimes this model is fantastic--especially if the leader is very knowledgeable and knows how to actively engage everyone in the group.  I explained that facilitating a group like this is a really great skill--one that many people need to use in their jobs.  One student mentioned that sometimes it feels like leaders in groups are bossy, and others agreed.  We continued on with that discussion, and talked about how important it is that everyone in a group work to balance the "power".  I reminded them that they were ALL experts on their book--no one else in the group was!  Each of them should have been able to participate fully.  

So then I asked them to think about what a diagram might look like to show a group that was working as a really well functioning book group.  The students mentioned things like

"Everyone should participate."

"No one should feel left out."

"We should compliment each other."

I then showed them this model and asked them to think about it and then turn and talk to a neighbor.

We talked about how important it is to listen to each other . . .  to "piggyback" ideas off of each other . . .  to be ACTIVE members of a group.  A book discussion should feel like a conversation among friends, not a "report".  Listen to each other.  Respond to each other.  Ask questions of each other.  One student then said, "We ran out of stuff to talk about after only a few minutes."  We talked as a class about how to keep conversations going, and it ended up looking something like this when we were finished:

The students agreed that these sentence starters could help them comment off of other students' comments, so we practiced a little with a question about Sarah, Plain and Tall.  I could see the light bulbs going off, so I am hopeful that our discussions on Friday will be a little more polished.  Today was another reminder that these skills we need to expect from our students are NOT innate and are NOT easy for many.  They need to be explicitly taught and modeled.  Another day, another bit wiser--right?

or find me on Twitter at @FourthGrStudio 
or Instagram @Fourthgradestudio

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guest Poster Corrina Allen: Student Behavior Charts

This year I lucked out and have an amazingly polite and well-behaved group of students. Their focus and manners have impressed me since the first day of school and make our classroom environment pleasant for everyone. However.... occasionally there is a child who struggles to follow most classroom expectations and needs a more individualized plan.  This behavior chart template can help you monitor the child's progress as they start to take more responsibility for making better choices throughout the day.


1. Communicate and Coordinate with parents / team members.
Meet with the others at your school (counselors, psychologists, administrators, team members, etc..) to plan what goals would be most appropriate for the child and determine the extent of the plan. (Will it include special areas and lunch? Who will fill it out each day?) Discuss the plan with the child's parents. Some may wish to get involved and reinforce the positive reports from school with a reward at home. Sometimes parents may decide to leave it up to the school. Either way, parents should be informed.

2. Conference with the child when you are both calm.
When a child repeatedly misbehaves, it can be very frustrating.  Getting the child to open up and get on board with a behavior plan will go more smoothly if the meeting is not emotionally charged. Schedule a private conference with the student to talk about their behavior and keep the focus on their success, rather than the disruption to others.
You might say something like....."I want to do whatever I can to help you be really successful and happy at school. Could we meet tomorrow morning to talk about that together?"

3. Enlist their help in creating goals.
Help the child to create 3-4 attainable behavior goals. They should be doable but also stretching the child toward positive behaviors. For example, if completing all their classwork is going to be difficult, you might adjust that to just one key assignment per day to start with.  Then, ask what would help them meet their goals. (Moving their seat? Organization help?) Having the goals be their idea (or at least making it seem that way!) is ideal.
You might say something like....."What are some things that are difficult now that we could work on improving?" Or "One of our classroom expectations is respecting school property. What would that look like?"

4. Set up a reward trigger.
Decide together how many yeses circled will result in a reward and what that reward will be. For children who need more immediate feedback, having a reward in the morning and then in the afternoon can work until they can develop more self-control. Here are some ideas that have worked well for my students:
  • playing for 10 minutes on the iPad / computer
  • helping out a younger student in another class
  • picking an item from a class prize box
  • having a piece of gum or a mint
  • telling a joke to the class (this works great with attention seekers!)
  • drawing with special markers or pens
5. Follow through
This may seem obvious, but staying on top of a behavior plan takes time and it's vitally important to be consistent. If your student sense that you are half-hearted about it, they won't care either. 

6. Analyze and share the data
Don' just let the chart get tucked into a drawer. Send copies to parents and team members who may work with the child. And take the time to analyze what is happening throughout each day and notice any patterns. Are Mondays especially difficult since they've been at a different house for the weekend? Are they avoiding writing? Is independent work a struggle? Try to find the source of the problem and guide them toward solving it.  (This documentation can also be essential if the child's behavior escalates and you need to conference with administration.)

7. Reassess and Adjust
Meet with the child again after a set amount of time to discuss their successes and make any adjustments in their goals or rewards.

Hopefully, all your students will be perfect angels all of the time.  ;-)  However, even the most fantastic classroom management plans don't work for some children with complex challenges and I hope you'll find this template helpful. The entire document can be edited and customized to suit the specific needs of the child.

Corrina Allen lives in Central New York with her husband and their two young daughters. She's been teaching for over 9 years - most recently 5th and 6th grades. She is the author of the blog, From Mrs. Allen's Teaching Files, where she shares teaching strategies, free resources, and reflections on her classroom experiences. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Organizing Literacy Center Materials

Yesterday over at my other blog, Shut the Door and Teach, I wrote about how I set up my Literacy Centers.  My school has been using Journeys for a few years now, and I'm more familiar with common core this year than I was at the beginning of last year, so I felt ready to really delve in.  You can see how I set up my rotation topics and schedule here.

Today I thought I'd share how I organize my materials.  Let's face it; the best instructional activities will not engage students if the organization behind them doesn't work!  And if it's too complicated for us to manage, we're not going to want to use it either.  There was some trial and error when it came to different locations in the room and moving desks, which the kids HATED.  Who knew how nervous they would get about other people sitting at their desk!  

So I scrapped that first idea and instead created a file folder system.  It worked for my math games, so I shouldn't be surprised that it turned out to be the best solution for my literacy activities.  They know where to access the folders, how to distribute materials, and they can stay at their own desk.  There is only one activity in the course of the week that requires a single group to move to a separate spot in the room, and fortunately I have the space to accommodate that.

I keep the bin with 3 file folders right in the middle of my leveled readers.  My rotations are right above this set of bins as well, so everything is within reach.  Other than "read with the teacher," each of the other stations has its own file folder of activities.

Inside each file folder I can "preload" the activities for the week.  The Mentor Sentences page has 3 different activities in one, so it keeps them occupied in the "Editing" station for 3 days, and I load the spelling in on the final day.  The Vocabulary pages look different enough from one day to the next, so the kids don't mix up which one to do first, second and so on.  I clip the "not yet" pages to the folder as a gentle reminder, and their current pages are loose in the folder for them to take.  And finally, the Independent Reading Response folder has 3 separate envelopes.  These are clearly labeled for each Close Read slip they need to do, in order.  The kids know they need to tape the first into their notebook and complete it before they take the second.  This is the most time consuming center, so often they come back to it when they finish a different literacy center early. 

Considering that this is my first year running Literacy Stations since moving to fourth grade (and since Common Core began) I think they are going pretty well!  I plan to offer my Close Reads in my TPT store this summer, so if you are thinking about trying stations next year, stay tuned!

[Edit:  I've started to post my Mentor Sentences products in my TPT store.  There are a few freebies in the section I've linked to if you want to give them a try!]

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