Archives for July 2013

It’s a Mystery!

“What’s in the box?”  “I wonder what’s in there this time!”  “Can I be first to figure it out?”

These are quotes from children who are anxious to find out what is inside the mystery box.  Many times I stand at the door and let the students put their hands inside for about 3 seconds before entering the room.  Other times I walk around the room and let students feel inside one by one and use a word to describe what is inside.  I’ve used the Mystery Box in many different ways, but one thing is the same every time: student engagement!

THE Mystery Box

THE Mystery Box

Principals always want to walk into our classrooms and see students “actively engaged” in their learning.  I’ve heard that phrase MANY times over my short career as a teacher.  The fact is: Not every lesson is engaging.  Sometimes we are forced to teach the “boring stuff” because it’s what the state mandates.

However, I have found a way to make some of those snoozers a lot more eye opening.  (Pardon the pun!)  The answer?  That Mystery Box you see in the picture.  Sometimes it takes just the simplest tweak of a lesson to make it more engaging for all involved.  And it’s one of those things that the kids continue to enjoy throughout the year.  It’s not something that they groan about–they get so excited when they see it come off the shelf.

How I made it:

I bought a hat box, a feather boa, black material, black foam sheet, and stickers at Hobby Lobby.  Before covering the box, I cut a 3.5″ x 3.5″  square in the center of the lid.  Then I covered the box and the lid with the material.  After that, I cut a circle to fit inside the bottom of the lid (for sturdiness) out of the foam and glued it in.  Once it dried, I took my exacto knife and cut an X in the lid where I had cut out the square.  You will be cutting the material and the foam at the same time.  This is where the students will be able to put their hands inside.  When I was finished with that, I cut the boa into smaller pieces and glued it around the edge of the lid and more around the X on the top.  The last step was to decorate it with stickers.

I’m sure many of you out there have used similar techniques in your classrooms.  How does it work for you?  Do you see that the students are more engaged?  I would love to hear your stories!  And if you haven’t tried it yet, let me suggest it!  You might just be surprised to see how much the level of interest increases in your room!!

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Anchor Charts

I finally uploaded some of my anchor charts that I used with my kiddos last year. Head over to my Anchor Charts page and check ’em out! 😉

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Now on Bloglovin!!

You can now follow my blog with Bloglovin!

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OUT with the OLD and IN with the NEW

Ugly Filing Cabinet

Ugly Filing Cabinet

I needed to get out of the house today, so where better to go than my classroom, right? The custodians have

finished waxing the floors and all of my stuff is on boxes, so I might as well just go ahead and jump in, especially since I’m planning to give my classroom a facelift before school starts.

I strutted in with my zebra contact paper in tow. Although I had grand plans for getting LOTS done, I couldn’t help but stare at the ugly tan filing cabinet just sitting there in all of its awfulness. I couldn’t help myself–I attacked it with my contact paper!

I thought it turned out pretty good. And the best part is that I’m now extremely motivated to clean out filing cabinet #2 and get rid of that bad boy! After an hour and a half of covering one, I decided I didn’t really want to have to do another.

Cute Filing Cabinet

Cute Filing Cabinet

Sorry, if you thought this would be an easy project, you’re wrong. The sides weren’t bad, and even the strips that go up and down on the front and in between the drawers weren’t bad. It was the drawers that took the longest and were frustrating. But..I did it…and am really glad that I did!

I will post pics of my room once it’s all finished, but I still have a long way to go. I took the “before” picture today, and it’s not pretty!! Stay tuned!!

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Individual Word Walls

 

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Materials I used

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My finished Word Wall

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The pages inside

 

Individual Word Walls have helped my students get through their writing so much easier.  And as an added benefit, I don’t spend as much time spelling words over and over again to the same students.  When a student asks me to spell a word, I will not spell it for them until they have their WW opened up to the correct page to write it down.  These little books have come in very handy!

All you need is a small memo book, some colored paper, scissors, glue, and some stickers or anything you want for decorating.  I actually found the memo books on sale at Walgreens 6/$1, so these didn’t cost me much!  The other supplies I had laying around the house.

1. Trace the cover of the memo book  on the colored paper, an then cut it out.

2. Decorate the colored paper with the design of your choice.

3. Glue the cover onto the memo book.

4. Count out the pages and divide them so that each letter gets an appropriate amount of space.

There you have it.  Individual word walls within 15 minutes–or 5 for most boys!!  😉

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Your rules or my rules?

Teaching isn’t easy. It never has been. It never will be. But Social Contracts can make a teacher’s life much easier if implemented correctly.

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Social Contract created by 2nd graders

The picture above is my very first Social Contract my students created. It’s messy. It’s colorful. It’s ALL created by the students. This is what makes it effective.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Social Contracts, pay attention! These things can make your classroom run much more smoothly if you let them. Social Contracts are “rules” created for the classroom by the students themselves. Instead of writing down the rules you expect the kids to follow, you allow the students to come up with the rules that they feel should be followed in order to feel safe and productive in the classroom. And I have to give it to them–they always come up with the same things I would write down, just stated a little differently.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

I always want my students to follow 3 simple rules: Be safe, Be respectful, and Listen carefully. It never fails, students come up with many more rules than I would give them. There is always a different amount, from class to class, year to year. Some groups feel that they need LOTS of rules spelled out for them, while others can group many of them together into one rule in which they agree. I let the students decide how many there will be and how they are worded on the SC.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

You’re probably wondering how this all comes about. First, I hand out marker boards and markers to each student and have them generate rules they think are necessary. Next, I put them into groups of about 4-5 and have them share out with each other. They come up with one list compiled from all the students in the group. After that, I ask each group to share out 1 rule that is on their list. We talk about it, what it looks like and sounds like, and then add it to the chart. Students are the only ones who write down the rules. This helps students to value it and take ownership of the rules they are creating. As each group shares out, any other group that has the same rule will cross it out so that there are no repeated rules on the chart. We do this until all groups have shared everything. If we feel that one rule can be categorized with another rule, we talk about it and if ALL students agree, we leave the rule as it stands on the chart. If even one student feels that the rule should be separate, then we add it. Once all rules are written down, each student is invited to sign their name on the contract.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

As with anything else, there are other ways to do this. In lower grades, the teacher would have to write the rules or designate a child that already knows all of the letters and is capable of doing it. It doesn’t matter if everything is spelled correctly or not, as long as the students understand what the rules are.

If you don’t already use Social Contracts in your classroom, I strongly recommend that you start this year! If you have any questions on how to make this work for you, or if you currently use these and have something to add, please do!!

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