So when I was in the classroom, I was a counter. And by counter I mean a counter of days left until summer. My husband is not a counter. You ask him how many days til summer, and he shrugs. Me, I knew exactly how many Mondays. How many weekends. How many kid days. How many seconds until the summer. Looking back, I think I drove myself a little crazy counting. But it got me through.
Actually I love the end of the year. I felt like I could let my guard down a little. Be a little more fun. Break away from the routine. I had to or else I would never make it. And the kids too. Come May, you can feel the summer jitters in the air. They are ready to run and be free. The test is over, and after all, that is why we go to school isn’t it? Isn’t it?! (I have trouble taming my sarcasm. I’m not sorry.)
Anyway, now that I’m home with little man, I’m not counting the days til summer quite so neurotically, but I’m still thinking about the summer. The beach. And the sun. And the beach. Ahh, the beach. And I started thinking about summer reading. When I was in the classroom, I always wanted to create a summer reading brochure for parents. It really is a shame how many kids do not even pick up a book for 2 whole months. I never had time. (I was too busy counting down the days, tee hee.) Lucky for you, I had time this week, and I decided to create a FREE brochure for you to use.
You can get it at my TPT store:
Or you can click here to get it from Google Docs.
It is a pretty simple brochure. It looks good in color and in grayscale. (I checked myself.) You’ll notice there are two pages that look the same. They are almost the same, but not quite. The difference is the summer reading challenge. One version is a 100 book challenge. This is best for younger students who are reading shorter chapter books. The other is the 1,500 minute challenge, best for students who are reading chapter books. (It would probably not work to challenge a kid to read 100 chapter books over the summer. I don’t know maybe some kids. But not the ones who need summer reading in the first place.)
I hope you can use it! And stay tuned, I have lots of ideas for posts about end-of-the-year activities in mind!
Teaching gifted and advanced third graders, I learned that many of these students reached my third grade class having never experienced failure. Straight A’s came easy. Reading came easy. Math was easy. They grasped concepts quickly and never had to take the time to figure something out; they already knew it. (Of course, not all gifted students grasp all concepts easily.)
“What’s the problem?” you might ask. Well, think about how much we learn from our struggles and our failures. We learn to adapt. We learn to deal. We learn to problem solve. Most importantly, we learn to handle adversity.
Young students, however bright they may be, need to experience challenges. I’m not saying you should give your third graders calculus or trigonometry, but I do think it is important to give them activities that might not come easy right away. Give students a healthy dose of failure in a safe environment, where you can be there to encourage them when they need it.
There were several activities that I loved to do in the classroom, often after the big test, activities that made students think and let them struggle a little bit.
Here are some of my favorites:
Lego has some fantastic simple machine kits. Students build carousels, cranes, and tractors, and the great thing about them is that in order to make the simple machines work, you have to follow the directions. Step by step. One little brick out of place, and it won’t work. You have to un-build and rebuild. It can be very frustrating for our little perfectionists, but they learn to follow directions, they learn the importance of perseverance, and they feel proud with the final project. To relate it to curriculum, have students tell about the simple machines and the forces involved. Fun hands-on science!
One of the single most frustrating days in my class each year was when we made origami paper cranes. I had an online tutorial that we played on the SmartBoard. Step by step, slow and steady, we worked through the paper cranes. Lots of wadded up paper and starting over at the beginning. I’m pretty sure there were even tears shed, some of them mine. But when those cranes were completed, there was a sense of triumph and pride. It was hard, but it was worth it! Check out Origami Club for lots of fun tutorials.
Great for your spatial learners, tangrams are fun, but they can be frustrating. Laura Candler has an awesome “Tangram Polygon Challenge” in her file cabinet. There are also several great books where different characters are made of tangrams. It is fun to read the story and make the characters as you read.
Did anyone else have to learn to juggle in college? In our PE for Elementary Teachers class, we did. It was not my shining moment as an undergrad. It was frustrating. I would get one ball going, sometimes two, but darn it if that third ball ever cooperated. But you know what made it better? Looking around the gym and seeing everyone else dropping the balls too. And laughing. You can’t help but laugh at yourself when you are failing miserably at something any run of the mill clown can do. Here is a Learn How to Juggle Website. There are also tons of YouTube tutorials. Try practicing with scarves or tissues because they stay in the air a little longer.
I hardly ever see jigsaw puzzles in the classroom any more, but I remember my teachers always having one going in the back of the room. The thing about jigsaw puzzles is they are intimidating at first. A thousand tiny pieces, where do you even start? However, when you get a piece here and a piece there, little by little, it gets done. Trial and error at its best.
When you are planning activities such as these that can be a little frustrating:
*Be sure to give students plenty of time so that everyone can complete the task.
*Be ready to break out your pompoms. Students will need encouragement.
*Try to talk about the frustration that they feel.
*Let them see you get stuck and start over, too.
The lessons learned in these little struggles are lessons that students will take with them once they leave your class.
So go ahead, plan some fun activities and let them experience failure in a small, healthy, and safe amount.
If you’re not familiar with TPT, which you probably are because it is ubiquitous these days (how do you like that use of a GRE word?) but really, if you’re not familiar with it, it is a pretty ingenious concept. It has opened many doors for teachers, doors that not only were never opened for us, but doors that never even existed.
Of course with every good thing, there will always be people who take issues with it. The other night, the TPT community discovered this post from Drapestakes about his dilemma with TPT. Even Time magazine tries to stir the pot a little in this article. So all of this got me thinking about what TPT is for me. Here are the reasons why I TPT:
1. I can’t tell you how many times while working on lesson plans, I was looking for a specific idea for a project or a lesson. I would scour the web and Amazon and get frustrated. Why hadn’t anyone created this project that I could imagine so clearly in my head? So then, I would just make my own. Problem solved. That’s how it has been since I first set foot in the classroom. Reason number one: I like creating fun projects.
2. Or how about all of the times I would search for a resource book about a certain topic. Probably one like gravity that our district wanted us to teach about for three weeks but there was only a page about it in the science book, but the standards had changed and our textbook was no longer relevant for the test of all tests…sigh…I digress. Anyway, I would find the perfect resource book, order it, wait a week or more for shipping, ugh. Only to receive the book and realize I only needed maybe three pages from it. Then I have shelves full of barely used resource books. And they’re not cheap. Enter TPT…now I can buy a product, download it immediately, and it is probably much cheaper than said books. Reason number two: TPT saves me money (sorry Amazon).
3. I made the (unfortunate) decision to volunteer to be part of the textbook committee one year, and seeing the inner workings of the process, I learned an important lesson. This may come as a shock, but textbook companies do NOT care about teachers or students or learning or anything along those lines; they care about money, money, money. Sounds cynical, right? But it is oh so true. When a district agrees to adopt that textbook, they make boatloads of money. I’m not even an all-out textbook hater. They have their place in education and should be used, albeit sparingly, but the only amount of creativity and thought put into the textbook industry is in advertising and figuring out how to persuade a district to adopt it. Reason number three: TPT is not a textbook company.
4. TPT products are more up-to-date and current. By the time textbooks are published, the state is in the process of adopting new standards. TPT sellers are teachers who are being given the same mandates from their states that you must use the Common Core Standards or the Sunshine State Standards or Next Generation State Standards or whatever strikes the current legislator’s fancy. Reason number four: TPT sellers create what teachers need now.
5. Just from participating in the TPT forums, I have learned of teachers paying off debts, making car payments, hospital bills, buying houses, paying for their child’s college, buying classroom supplies, donating to charities, etc… TPT sellers are real teachers, real people. Reason number five: when you buy from TPT, you put money in a teacher’s pocket.
6. TPT is a community of professionals, teachers, writers, who are on a quest to make quality products. Yes, we do have a business sense to us, and we want to make a product that sells, but first and foremost, we want to make something that a teacher would be proud to use in his or her classroom. It is thrill of all thrills to see our work being used in other classrooms. Reason number six: TPT-ers care about students and teachers.
7. I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up. And a teacher.TPT helps me use by creativity and my writing skills for something I am passionate about: learning. (I wanted to be a forensic scientist, too, but TPT doesn’t help me there. That is what Bones and Forensic Files are for.) Reason number seven: I get to be an educational writer.
8. Extra money is nice. I have a love affair with Apple products, and TPT helps support my habits. Reason number eight: I love my iPad.
9. I am currently staying home with my eighteen-month-old. Enough said. No really, considering most days I live in yoga pants, may or may not brush my hair, and my most-watched show is “Dinosaur Train,” sometimes it is nice to use my brain a little bit and be creative. I feel connected to the academic world. Reason number nine: To combat a bad case of mommy brain.
10. When I was in the classroom, TPT made me a better teacher. I begrudged time that I spent at home grading papers or doing report cards. However, I looked forward to writing and creating new projects at home after a long day teaching. Why? Because I knew my students would enjoy the challenge or the fun or the new way of learning. Give me a stack of papers to grade and I’m asleep on the couch by 8 pm, yet I could stay up all hours working on a project. I wanted to have better projects for my students, thus better products to post on TPT. Reason number ten: Better teachers = good.
That is why I TPT…what about you?
It is so hard to fit everything into a school day, I was always happy when I could find ways to overlap a little bit. You know teach a little bit of social studies in reading class or vice versa. It seems that’s the only way to truly accomplish everything. I think I’ve already told you how much I love science. I love it and could teach it all day. Throw in some math, and I’m a happy teacher.
Writing, on the other hand, blah. The thing is, I love to write. Back in the day, my teachers told me I was good at it. Way back in the day. I don’t know why, though, perhaps because it is something that comes easy for me, but writing is the hardest subject for me to teach. I figure if I can combine it with something I love, then that will make it a little more palatable.
So I have been working on this product that combines science and writing. Here is a FREE sample of it. These are the 4 writing prompts for the space unit. Click here or click on the images to grab it from google docs.
What are some ways that you combine subjects to get it all done?
It’s been a while since I’ve linked up, but don’t forget to check out Freebie Friday over at Teaching Blog Addict.
Also, if you haven’t checked out their Ultimate Freebie Celebration, get over there now! There are 381 freebies in the 3rd and 4th grade section alone!
I’m not gonna lie; I enjoy April Fool’s Day. I like a good prank. I have purchased whoopee cushions as gifts on more than one occasion. Fake lottery tickets. More than two or three occasions I think. Fake dog poop. Yup. Actually, my last fake dog poop got confiscated at a movie theater. When I was 14 or 15 or I don’t know 25. Hee hee.
I enjoyed April Fool’s Day at school, too. The most memorable being the time I moved all of the classroom chairs outside of the classroom. Yup, it was when I was still first-year-teacher-neurotic and got to school before the sun even hinted at coming out. So I had the time to move every single chair and stash them on the back porch of the portable that we called home. I giggled to myself anticipating the reactions of my fifth graders. Finally the bell rang, and students started trickling in. They quietly and meticulously went about their morning work. Without chairs. And no one said anything. I was watching. Not to each other. Not to me. No one seemed to notice there were no chairs?! Can you say epic fail.
Oh well. I got them good later when it came time for our spelling test and I pulled out words like “pterodactyl” and ”epitome.”
My all time favorite April Fool’s classroom prank is “SLOOF Lirpa.” Basically, send kids on a bird hunt for the Sloof Lirpa bird. Have them do things like flap their wings, spin around, and yell “Sloof Lirpa” at the top of their lungs. Preferably when others are nearby to stare curiously. Then have the write SLOOF LIRPA and hold it up to a mirror. Click here for the FREE printable. It is at my TPT store, but if you don’t have an account, you can get a free one.
I saw some cute Pinterest April Fools ideas, too. Like doughnut seeds (i.e. cheerios) or a word search puzzle where the words aren’t actually there. Here’s the link for some more ideas.
And I learned something this week. I did a simple google search to learn the origin of April Fool’s Day, and did you know that in Italy, France, and Belgium, it is customary for kids to put a paper fish on their friends’ back and shout “April Fish!” That is a custom I can get behind! (Unless Google was April Fooling Me?!)
Anyone else have some fun April Fool’s Day Classroom Pranks? Happy April Fish Day!
Oh and it is Friday, so head over to Freebie Friday at Teaching Blog Addict.
I don’t think I ever celebrated Easter in the classroom. Scanning Pinterest and blogs, though, I see a ton of Easter stuff. So I’m curious, do you do anything for Easter in your classroom?
Truthfully, I was never big on any holidays at school. I definitely had students every year who didn’t celebrate Christian holidays or sometimes any holidays at all. I remember when I was in elementary school, they would send the kids who didn’t celebrate to another classroom, and I just thought that was terrible. So I never wanted to do anything that would exclude anyone.
Plus, I never seemed to find enough time to fit in all of the academic stuff, so anything extra rarely it to my plans. And when I did do holiday stuff, I was always scrambling the night before to think of something quick and easy that didn’t require a ton of copies and that was hit on something academic. And it had to be versatile, so that even students who didn’t celebrate the holidays would still be able to do the academic part of it.
So if I was still in the classroom and did want to jump on the Easter bandwagon, this would work for me:
Tessellation Easter Egg.
1. academic–tessellations, patterns, geometry
3. doesn’t require a ton of copies
4. to make it versatile for students who don’t celebrate Easter, simply make the lesson about tessellations. Then, give students the choice to make an Easter egg or any other pattern they choose.
There are a ton of tessellation resources on the web. Tessellations.org is a great one. They even have instructions for a more complex type of tessellation. I remember my ninth grade geometry teacher showing us how to make them, and I loved the project so much! I did them with third graders, but they took a lot of time and patience. It was a great after-the-test activity on the days when their brains were a little fried, but I wanted to keep them engaged in some way other than movies. M.C. Escher is notorious for his elaborate tessellations, too. Students love to look at his designs. Tessellations are all around us, too. Look in the chain-link fence or pretty much any ceiling or floor tiles.
Easter or no, happy tessellating!