Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sparking Student Motivation: Back to School Activities to Keep Students Engaged

Phew!  I MADE IT through the first week of school!  WOot WOot! I had a great opening week and I am already loving the intelligence of my new sixth graders.
Today I wanted to link up with my BBB Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share a few activities that kept my students motivated on the first week of school.

In science we spent the week learning about safety and the scientific method.  As exciting  boring as that sounds, I knew I had to end the week with an activity that would keep my students thinking about science, and sharing it with their parents.  Have you heard about Saving Fred?  I first heard about this activity from some of my BBBs.  My friend Jivey has a great post about it {HERE}
One of the things I loved about this activity was that it needed very little prep. Gummy worms, plastic cup, peach ring and paper clips.  All things easily picked up in a quick shopping trip.
The premise behind this experiment is that Fred (our faithful gummy worm) has been trapped in a storm and capsized his boat (the cup).  Our job is to get Fred, into a life preserver and back in the boat using only the paper clips provided.  No hands touching the cup, or any of the materials.

What I particularly loved about using this with my sixth graders was what I had them do BEFORE they made their attempts to save Fred.  I call it a THINK TANK.  I gave them two minutes to THINK about how they would solve the problem on their own.  They could not share, touch or make eye contact with any group members.  Then I gave them 2 minutes to SHARE their ideas with their partners.. again, no touching, but the sharing had to come from NO talking.  They had to communicate their movements with gestures.  It was a great way to watch where frustration levels occurred and who would want to try and take over the group.  Next, I allowed them 2 minutes to share their ideas verbally, again with no touching the materials. Finally, I gave them 10 minutes to get Fred in his life preserver and back in the boat.

All of my groups but one was successful in that 10 minutes.  They had a blast attempting this activity!  Look at those silly happy faces!
Here a few FREE resources I found and used with this activity:
PowerPoint to set up Saving Fred {HERE}
Scientific Method worksheets for our Notebooks {HERE}

I used the PowerPoint to explain the scenario behind FRED, and the printed the worksheets 2 per page, had the students cut them out and make a booklet.  When we finished the activity we wrote a summary using sequence words and put this in our notebooks, gluing only the bottom page.  (Sorry I forgot to take a picture of that).  This helped us save space in our notebooks.

The second activity that helped keep my students motivated this week was in math.  I taught them a quick game I call Sum of the Dice.  Students get a game board that is numbered 1-9.  They need a pair of dice, and bingo chips.  Students take turns rolling the dice and covering up the sum on their board.  

For example if Student A rolled a 9, they have the option of covering the 9, 1 and 8, 2 and 7, 6 and 3, 4 and 5.  Once a number is covered, they cannot remove it. Then Student B rolls the die and covers his/her sum.   If the student rolls and the/she cannot cover any more numbers his/her turn is over.  You count up the uncovered numbers to get your score.  The person with the lowest possible score wins the game.  You can see that the boy in the picture below has all of his numbers covered except the 3.  This is his final score for the game.  He was a happy winner! ;)

This is a VERY VERY basic game for sixth grade.  But it does get them using mental math right away on the very first day of school.  It is also a great way for students to get to know their peers, AND it is easy for an older sibling to play with a younger one!  I always tell my students it is a good way to earn brownie points with their parents when they have to play with a younger sibling.  Any child that is learning or knows their number families can play this game!

Thank you so Joanne for hosting this great linky.

  I'd love to hear how you motivated your students this week!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Meet the Teacher Night in Sixth Grade

Yesterday we had Meet the Teacher Night at our School.  This was a new concept for me last year.  My students came in a few days before school started to bring in supplies, meet me, and get a feel for our classroom.  When I was teaching in a middle school our principal would do an orientation with our class for the afternoon, but we did not participate.  I wanted to share a few things that I did for Meet the Teacher in hopes that you can get an idea or two.

1)  Greet your families when they come through the door!  I stand near my door to greet families as they enter and start them off on a path around my room.  This also helps to prevent being cornered by a single family who feels they need to monopolize your time. On a table right near the door I have our sign-in list for Title One.  With our Title One list I have an email list to get parents emails, and a Remind101 sign up.  Of course, everyone needs a little something-something while they are signing all of those papers, so I had a bowl of mints with this sign:
You can grab it for FREE by going {HERE} if you need one 

I also had these "parent extras" hanging up on my dry erase board.  They are for supplies that I didn't ask for, or that we do not have enough of... extra items like ziplock bags, chlorox wipes, sharpie markers etc.  If parents are able to, they grab a hand (which I bought at the Dollar Store) and send the supply back to school with their child the following week.


2) My student desks are labeled with name tags.  After greeting my families I ask students to find their desks and then put away the supplies that they have brought.  Most of these go in their desks, but I keep a few things back.  I made signs that look like this:
These are placed around my room along with some empty milk crates.  When the night is over I put all of our extras away.

3) On my student desks I had a folder with items for students to take home with them.  These included our school calendar, permission forms for our quarterly field trip, school policies and a letter introducing myself.  Since I was new to the school last year, many of the parents don't know me.  I think it is really important for your families to see you as a person right away.  

This is really important if you are the first grade level in a middle school.  Parents and students alike are nervous about this big step. They may have heard gossip or other nonsense about teachers in the middle school not being as friendly or caring as an elementary teacher.  Prove them wrong!
My teammate and I would also post these types of pictures outside of our classroom doors when we were in the middle school.  It let the kids know a little about us, and showed our love of coffee!
4) This year I also created a Thinglink to display on my smartboard. Thinglink is an site that allows you to take a picture and make it interactive.  I read about my friend Sabra creating a Thinglink, and knew I have to give it a try.  

5) Lastly, I wanted my students to go home with a little something.  I used my Back to School Goody Pack to create labels for water bottles and microwave popcorn.  This way they could have a fun snack as they think about the great year they'll have in sixth grade!

What are some activities that you use to start your year?  I would love to hear about it.  Have a great day~ the weekend is almost here!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Finally, It's Monday and I Made it!

Happy Monday friends!  I'm linking up with Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics to show off some of the things I made for Back to School.  As many of you know, I'm totally NOT a crafty girl, but I've seen a ton of great posts this summer from crafty people, and I had to through in my two cents.

For my first Made-It, I was a guinea pig for my BBB Joanne.  She is pure inspiration, and Head Over Heels for Teaching is full of amazing ideas.  I read Joanne's post a few weeks ago about "fancifying" your name calling sticks.  You can read her post {HERE}.  She was super crafty and created colored paper to cover her craft sticks.  Joanne printed out her student's names and is using them when she has to call on students in class.  We spent a few days talking about this crafty project, and I volunteered to be her guinea pig for reading and following directions.  Here is my project:
I didn't print names on mine because I'm going to use them as a chore chart.  


Basically you print out the sticks that are already sized for the jumbo craft sticks. and use your paper cutter and scissors to cut them out.  Then you modge podge them to keep the paper on the sticks.  Super easy, even for the non-crafty type like me!
Instead of printing student names on mine, I glued names and numbers to the tops so I can put them into library pockets for jobs.  I haven't quite got that set up yet.. so I'll blog with pictures when I do.

You can go to Joanne's TpT store {HERE} She is posting these bad boys early this week!

My second Monday Made-It project was inspired by the first.  I found super jumbo craft sticks at Hobby Lobby,  AND sparkly duct tape.  I covered the sticks with duct tape and again, used my class numbers on the end.  I am going to put these as book holders in my library.
My library is currently a COMPLETE MESS because I have no book shelves.  I was granted a Donor's Choose project for two books cases, and I'm currently waiting for them to come in.
Next I put together the goodies for my Meet the Teacher night.  I always like to have a little something when my students come in to meet me and drop off their supplies.  First I made signs so they would know where to put everything.

I also created a sign asking parents for a few extras.  Things like Ziploc bags, and extra paper.  I ask my parents to "Lend a Helping Hand" and take a hand if they can send something extra in.


Then I used my Back To School Goody Pack and printed labels for water and popcorn.  I'm going to put these on my student's desks.  It will be a great snack for them later at night.

Thanks for sticking by me through this LOONG post.  It's not often that I'm crafty. Thanks also to Tara for hosting! Make it a great week friends!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Five for Friday: Almost Back to School!

Hello friends!  Can you believe people are already heading back to school?  I start back with a week of teacher professional development on Monday, but my own kids start classes.  I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for a little week in review.


1)  First off, have you entered this AWESOME GIVEAWAY yet?  There are only a few short hours left to enter to win the Kindle Fire!  There are so many great books out there.  You can go {HERE} to read about a great Back to School book and enter!

2) With Back to School looming, I took my kids to visit my Seester and enjoy a day or two at the beach.  It rained for 4 days... BUT on the last full day we managed to sneak in a little beach time!



3)  While at the beach I finished this great book:  The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone
 
I picked this book up at the library and loved it from the start.  It's kind of like a kids version of The Da Vinci Code.  A group of kids are off on an adventure around the world using clues from Copernicus' diary and an ancient map. I'm going to order it for my classroom and share it when I get back to school. 

4) Of course, I did some shopping with my Seester.. because I hate shopping and I don't go very often.  She helps me to update my wardrobe.  I got this fabulous shirt from her by Lilly Pulitzer... SHHH don't tell her.. I really SHOPPED in her closet.. it's a Braylen shirt and the print is called Palm Reader.

5)  Finally, I must admit, I may have a leeeetle problem with my favorite ice cream.  Have you tried The Tonight Dough from Ben and Jerry's?  It has become my all time favorite, but it is limited edition.  What's a girl to do?  Buy out the whole store of what's left of course! #dontjudge

Thanks again to Doodle Bugs for hosting this great linky!  How are you spending you last week or weeks before school begins?  Eating ice cream I hope!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Get to Know Me with A Little This and That!

I love this linky from The Tattooed Teacher!  I'm sharing a little about me, and I'm hoping to find out a little more about you too.



1) I'm most definitely a jeans kind of gal.  I've been trying to wear more skirts and dresses, it seems like such a Southern thing, but I'm not there yet.  I love the days we are allowed to wear jeans to school! This is where I am the most comfortable 2) Earrings for sure.. when I remember to wear them! 3) Yea.. I've got nothing there.. LOL 4) Silver jewelry all the way!  I don't wear gold very often, but I have recently gotten some Lilly Pulitzer clothing, and that seems to be more of the gold category.  5) I'm an online shopper.  If I can avoid the mall, I opt out in a heart beat.  Thank goodness for my husband who even went and bought my daughter hair bows for softball regionals! I like Stitch Fix, and really appreciate my siblings who are both managers in retail.  They pretty much tell me what to buy, and I do what I'm told. :)  6) Showers, quiet listening homebody... enough said.. I love my quiet time, books, and binge watching Netflix. 7) Breakfast is my favorite meal.. at least on the weekends, and I totally run on Dunkin, so they go together nicely for this early bird! 8) Finally, I'm really a low key, flats wearing (converse or boots), people watching Central Park girl.  I love riding the train, and wish there were trains where we live now.  I miss that about NY and the east coast.

Thanks to Rachel for setting up this linky, and thank you for spending some time getting to know me!  I'd love to know more about my readers!  How about commenting below with something about you?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

KINDLE your Students' Love of Reading with a Big Giveaway!

Can you believe that it is the first of August!  The summer has flown by, and I will be heading back August 10th to start my 22nd year of teaching!  Can you believe it!

To celebrate the Back to School Season, several of us bloggers have come together to give you some awesome ideas for Back to School Books! These books can be used to set up your classroom community, begin a good lesson, or just as a fun read-aloud.

The book I'd like to share with you is The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg


It's a great book for teaching inferences and citing evidence.  Van Allsburg tells the story of a farmer who hits a stranger on the road.  The stranger loses his memory, and comes to live with the farmer while he recovers.  While the stranger is there, the seasons seem to stop moving, the summer heat continues, and the pumpkins become huge.  Little does the family know the importance of the man they are helping to heal!
I LOVE Van Allsburg's books for upper grades!  They are a perfect way to begin Reader's Workshop mini lessons using picture books!  I also use Van Allsburgs books to teach  my students what to do in literature circles.  How to have a conversation about a book, and be responsible for contributing to the learning goal.  To help them with this, I use my Reader Response Rectangles.
This pack contains 33 questions and activities for nonfiction and fiction reading.  There are several styles in the pack.  I include "header" questions that you can print and include in an interactive notebook, or copy and put on Reading Rings like the picture below.

I also included a Reader Response Journal if you want your students to have the questions all in one place.  Finally, I created Work Mats.

 I use these at the beginning of the year with my literature circles.  Three or four students focus on one goal from the mini lesson using The Stranger.  Then I move into other books, and do a complete author study, all the while, reviewing skills from the previous year, before I "kick it up a notch."  Have you seen these other books by Van Allsburg?

And have you heard? Teachers Pay Teachers is having a site-wide Back to School Sale August 3rd and 4th, so you will be able to get the Reader Response Rectangles at 28% off using the promo code BTS15!

We know what else really "lights a fire" in you, and that is fabulous technology! We are giving away a brand new Kindle Fire HD6 to one lucky winner! It will be perfect to keep up to date on all of the amazing literature that is currently being published!
Enter the rafflecopter below by hopping through each of our blogs and entering the secret word that can be found on the tablet in each of our posts. Also make sure to follow our TPT stores because the winner will be announced through a message in your TPT inbox! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are also giving away a $25 gift certificate to Creative Teaching Press!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck! We hope you have a successful start to your school year! Head on over and visit my BBB Sabra at Teaching with a Touch of Twang to find your next key word!!
Pin It button on image hover