Parent Survey

I’ve been working on some documents for the beginning of the year.  I have created a BOY (Beginning Of Year) parent survey that can be used with any grade level.  Feel free to use it or change it for your needs.

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Is there something else that you would like to see on it?  If so, please leave me a comment and I will try to add it and repost.  At our school, the teachers are given cards with lots of other information, including address, special needs, comments from the previous teacher, and educational data, so I left some of those things off intentionally, but I can make one personalized for you if you want it.  Just let me know!  Click here to download the file –> Parent Survey.

This is part of TBA’s Linky Party!  Head over to their blog to find AMAZING blogs by AMAZING teachers!!

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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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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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Great Ideas for Elementary Teachers

Great Ideas for Elementary Teachers

As I was searching through blogs today, I found a link to this article about various things teachers do to organize their classrooms and make them child-friendly.  Some of them I already incorporate in my own classroom, and others I will definitely be implementing this year!  Take a look for yourself!

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Homeworkopoly Revisited

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Homeworkopoly has been drawing the attention of several people and conjuring questions of all kinds, so I decided to revisit this popular topic and do my best to answer the questions that have been asked.

What is it?  Homeworkopoly is a game that was created by some brilliant person (I’m guessing a teacher, but not sure of the original owner) to encourage homework participation.  The best part about it is that you can customize it to fit your needs.

How does it work?  It works differently in every classroom, I’m sure.  Some teachers are lucky enough to have only one set of students, while others are departmentalized and have numerous classes rotating through each day.  I teach 4th grade, and my team is departmentalized, so I see about 44 students every day.  Last year, the year of implementation, I actually had 3 classes of 22 students in a rotation, so it was a little difficult to manage, but still possible.  Because of the high volume of participants, my rules for the game were probably very different from a self-contained classroom.

The rules: During the fall semester, I was fortunate enough to have an AMAZING student teacher helping me out, so I had extra hands to aide in the execution of everything.  I kept a simple spreadsheet that had each student’s name and the dates of assigned homework.  Each time a student turned in homework, he/she got a check.  At the end of the week, students would get to roll the dice and move around the board as many times as they turned in homework for the week.  I also asked volunteers to help out while the students were actually being called back and playing the game.

During the spring semester, without help and with THE test looming over us, we just had less time for Homeworkopoly.  I told the students that instead of rolling once for each time they turned in homework, now they would have to be consistent all week in order to receive one roll.  Not only did this cut down on the time required to play, it helped reinforce the idea of responsibility and turning in homework consistently.

Computer and Chance Cards: When students land on a Computer Card or Chance Card space, the student would choose the card in the front/on top and receive the prize that was written on the card.  I’m not a big fan of sending students to the prize box all the time, so I chose to provide prizes that didn’t necessarily involve money.  I found a great website that offered 125 FREE rewards to students, so I picked the ones I liked most–and felt I could live with–printed them on labels, and then put them on the back of the cards.  I’ve posted the website under my classroom management page, but here it is again: http://www.managemyclassroom.com/?p=128

The other spaces: I hate to say it, but we just didn’t have time to mess with any spaces other than the Chance and Computer Card spaces.  If you have been fortunate enough to employ other ideas with these spaces, I would love to hear what you do!!

Pawns: Since I hung my Homeworkopoly game board on the wall, I had to use something that would not fall off the board (aka: no pawns).  I decided to designate a color to each class, and they had an Expo marker to write their assigned class number on the space where they landed.  Rather than writing it each time they landed, they only wrote their number where they landed LAST.  This is where those student helpers came in very handy!!  Since the game board was laminated, we just kept some Expo board spray and paper towels on the ledge next to it for when we needed to erase.

Time devoted to playing: As I mentioned earlier, this took up more time in the fall than it did during the spring, for various reasons.  Holding the students accountable for turning in homework every day in order to roll once cut down on the number of participants, especially towards the end of the year when all they want to do is go home and be DONE with school!  I would say it probably took around 20 minutes or so in the fall (with lots of help) and dwindled down to 5-10 in the spring.  This is per class.  Remember, I had classes of about 22 students.  We played only on Fridays.

Hopefully I’ve answered most of the questions you might have on the implementation of Homeworkopoly.  If you have played this game with your students, I would LOVE to hear your spin on it!!

 

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Mission Organization: Drop Box

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I created this organizational tool to give students a place to put party notes, letters from parents, doctors notes, absence excuses, tardy passes, and all of those other things that parents send to school with their students in an attempt to communicate with us.  Instead of having my students just drop them off on my desk, they will now have a specific place to put these items.  Not only does it help me stay organized, it also keeps them from blowing on the floor or getting mixed in with a stack of papers to grade.

I went to Dollar Tree, our local $1 store, and bought a plastic bin about the size of a shoebox and a set of perforated letters from the teacher aisle.  I glued the letters on the side of the box, waited for it to dry, and bam–done!  The best part: it cost under $2!  (I’ll say under $2 since I have lots of letters left over to use on future projects.)  I may end up putting some clear tape over it if the letters begin to peel off, but for now, I like it just the way it is!

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