Monthly Archives: July 2010

Morning Meeting~ A Great Way to Begin the Day!

by Kelli Lewis

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“Morning Meeting” is a great time to get to know your students, allow students to get to know their peers, and spend quality time together that is outside of academics.

Here’s how it works:

  • Check In: Greet your students and briefly share something exciting, important or interesting going on in your own life. (Aside from teaching, that is…because, yes, we really do have lives outside of these four walls….right??)
  • Agenda Box: Throughout the day, students are given the opportunity to write down instances and conflicts that occurred with their classmates. Then, if they weren’t able to resolve them on their own, the teacher can open them up for class discussion during Morning Meeting. The teacher talks with each student involved and asks questions about how it made them feel, why they did it, what they could do instead, etc. The other peers also discuss ways to help those who were involved, and they work together to come up with ways to prevent such instances from happening again. This creates a sense of teamwork among peers and allows students to realize that they can work through conflicts with others.
  • Daily Details: Go over the schedule for the day. Any special programs or deviations from the regular routine? Being able to work out the small things, early on, can make for more time throughout the day that you don’t have to deal with them.
  • Temperature Readings: Students go around the circle and give their “temperature” reading. On a scale of 1 to 10 (or 1 to 3 for younger grades), students pick the number that describes them that day (1 being not so great, 10 being fabulous.)  For younger students, you may even display illustrations along with this: a sad face for rating 1, straight face for rating 2, and happy face for rating 3. One rule: students must speak in complete sentences. This allows everyone to discuss their feelings and know exactly where everyone is coming from before the day really starts.
  • Compliments: Students are given the opportunity to raise their hand and have a Koosh ball (or other soft ball) thrown to them in order to speak. Students must not speak unless they are holding the ball. Once the ball is in their possession, they are able to give someone a compliment. For example, “I want to compliment Jackson for holding the door for the class yesterday without being asked” or “I want to compliment Alexis for sharing her crayons with me.” This is a good way for students to learn to say (and notice!) positive things–and friendships are forged. Encourage students to find compliments for everyone and not just their friends. Students soon become aware of how it feels to receive a compliment and hopefully how well it feels to give one, knowing they made someone else feel happy.

Of course, Morning Meeting is a flexible time that can be adapted for each class’s (and teacher’s) personality. The goal is simply to start the day on the right foot…as a community.

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Discipline, Motivation

Who Rules the School? Boys…or Girls??

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by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

You know those little box tops on the packaging of General Mills products? I discovered a way to turn them into GOLD! Well, maybe not literally, but these are some very valuable commodities in my classroom, and they are quite an unexpected motivator!

My school collects General Mills Box Tops – it’s a great program that pays $.10 per box top directly to my school. In an effort to boost collections, my school began a “Who Rules the School?” campaign in which the students could place their box tops in the “boys” or “girls” box, and one box top (or Campbell’s soup label) equals one vote. The box with the most votes wins not only the coveted title of ruling the school, but a free dress day (the students wear uniforms at my school). This always causes a big buzz around the school, so I decided to take it one step further! Since I’d accumulated lots of these Box Tops, I decided that instead of dividing them up half for the boys and half for the girls (which wouldn’t get either side ahead and seemed like a lot of work for me), I would give them away for correct answers during math class. All I can say is…Wow!… participation, correct answers, laughter, smiles, friendly competitive spirit… all of this suddenly increased! Who knew?!

It didn’t stop there, either! The students came into class saying, “I think I got all my math homework right. I can’t wait until math class!” After my initial thought of “Who are you, and what did you do with my students?” passed, I realized I had just stumbled into a super motivator, and I could hardly believe its effects! So of course, as a teacher, I milked it for all it was worth: I used it in other subjects, for when I caught someone doing something without being asked, for those that were prepared for class, and for those that asked good questions during class. The opportunities were endless! I especially liked that it gave an opportunity to reward students who aren’t normally in the class ‘spotlight’ or not as academically strong… pretty soon, everyone had earned rewards.

Perhaps the neatest part of the process was that when we all walked down the hall to the voting boxes, the students had such a proud look on their faces as they deposited their “votes.” Funny…some girls chose to place their box tops in the boys’ box and vice versa (How cute! 5th graders… I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand them!).

Ground rules: I give boys and girls equal opportunity when giving away Box Tops, and I tell them that the Box Tops are to be treated carefully – if they’re lost, so sorry! Also, if your school doesn’t do a school-wide Box Tops campaign, you could easily have a class-wide competition instead, or if you see many classes during the day, change them to “Which Class Rules?” If free dress isn’t applicable, perhaps other prizes could be free homework pass(es), extra recess or computer time, etc.

So, who rules the school? Maybe it’s the girls, or maybe it’s the boys. But in my book, General Mills Box Tops rule, hands down!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

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Texting in the Classroom??? (yes, it has a place!)

by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

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Cell phones are everywhere…probably 95% of our students carry them (yes, even the little ones), and teachers are struggling to control the use of phones in the short time we have with our students. But instead of spinning our wheels by making the phones taboo, why not give in to them and embrace them as a new way of reaching our students?

IDEA ONE: Spelling List
One way is to use texting with weekly spelling lists. I’ve adapted R. Lynnette’s original idea into a math/spelling combo where the students “spell” the word on a telephone keypad as if they were texting it. Then I have them add up the value of the word. For example, for a spelling word texting, the corresponding keypad value would be 8398464 and the corresponding sum would be 42. My students enjoy this activity and giggle that I can find a way to bring math into any subject! Additionally, the spelling words could easily be adapted to any grade level, and you could use multiplication instead of addition for the math portion. If I were to choose to collect this for a grade, I can quickly see if I’ve got problem spellers or students struggling with the math portion of it. Click here for a printable worksheet version of this activity.

IDEA TWO: Spelling Modification for Struggling and Advanced Students
For struggling students, I might pair them up with a partner or give them a spelling list that’s more appropriate for them. For my challenge students, I usually include several bonus words for the week, and I might pick a ‘target’ number for the week and challenge them to use the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to get to that target number. For example, let’s say I have a target number of 76. Using the word texting, the value of is 8398464, so you could hit target number this way:  (8 × 3 + 9 – 8) × 4 – (6 × 4). You could vary this by using square roots, any order, only addition/subtraction…whatever makes the most sense for your classroom.  This is a great way to reinforce those basic math facts!

IDEA THREE: PollEverywhere.com

Another texting option would require each student to have a texting cell phone and be able to use it during class (gasp!). Using polleverywhere.com, you can very easily and quickly set up questions for your students, graphs that are updated real-time, and then be able to download the information to presentation or spreadsheet software. The students would simply text their response to a central number (much like American Idol), the data and graphs are updated as soon as the student hits ‘send,’ and you can display the results on a projector for all to see. The best part:  it’s free! Visit polleverywhere.com for more information. (Thank you to Kathy Shields for this great suggestion!)

So instead of bucking the cellphone and texting trend, why don’t we embrace it as yet another way of connecting with our students so that we can more effectively present knowledge to our students? The students will think U R GR8!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

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Classroom Organization: The Key to Success!

by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

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I love the feeling of starting a new school year “fresh” and new.  I like to start out on the right foot, and one way to ensure a great year is to begin – from the very first day – with organization.  No matter what age or grade, organization is key. Students need to be prepared for EACH subject EVERY day!

So how do we better prepare our students to be organized?  Teach organization!  “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a saying by which I learned – and now teach – organization.  Specifically, everything should have a place for storage and should be returned there when not in use.  Once I adopted this mentality, the organization dilemma became quite easy to handle and maintain.  Here are some guidelines:

  • Desk/locker organization: In my self-contained classroom, we are very space-challenged, so I’m sensitive to the number of textbooks, workbooks, notebooks, and folders we need to squeeze into small areas.  I always make sure the supplies I give them will fit in their desk and/or cubby.  If necessary, store textbooks on a bookshelf.  Also be wary of ‘space hogs’ like unnecessary supplies or trash lurking in the desks or lockers.  Model what good organization – and bad – looks like.  At the beginning of the year, I tell the students that the “Organization Fairy” visits unannounced and leaves prizes for organized desks and lockers.  I also show pictures of an organized desk (complete with smiley faces) and an unorganized desk (complete with disciplinary points).
  • Subject organization: Be clear on the requirements for each subject (provide a specific list of supplies that you require), and ensure that the students have a place for all papers (color coded folders work very well), including a system for sending home graded papers, and for their everyday note-taking or miscellaneous papers.  This way, there are no loose papers falling out of desks or lockers.  I’m constantly asking the group, “Where would be a good place for us to put this worksheet/assignment/graded test?”
  • Homework organization: Insist on an assignment book for each student, and have an established place on the board for homework assignments.  I tell the students, “When I write, you write” and they know to get out their assignment books when I’m headed to the homework board.
  • Communication organization: If age appropriate, dedicate a folder to “take home information” and “bring to school” communication (parents need organization, too!).  Additionally, set up a Reminder Board (or a section of your white/chalkboard) for daily/weekly reminders to the students.  Each morning, I verbally address the items on this list so the auditory as well as the visual students know about the reminders.
  • Deadline organization: I post my test/quizzes/project deadlines on the Reminder Board (see above) for the week every Monday morning.  The students write these deadlines in their assignment book every Monday.  I also post library book or field trip permission slip deadlines here, as well.  This also prevents the I-didn’t-know-about-that-test syndrome.

Organization is a challenge for students (and adults!), so the more guidelines we give, the better organized they’ll be.  Therefore, in my classroom, the mantra is:  A place for everything, and everything in a place.  Words to live by, literally!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

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Creative (and Purposeful) Ways to Decorate a Classroom

by Kelli Lewis

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Looking for some new and creative ways to decorate your classroom? Here are some ideas that combine aesthetic appeal with academic purpose.

  1. Book bags. They always seem to be in the way. But, yes, they are needed, so here’s a clever space-saving solution. Have your students unpack their bags with everything they need for the day, then place their book bag in a big Rubbermaid plastic bin with a lid. This is just one way to get them out of the way and keep your room organized.
  2. Class Rules. Who makes these? Do you collaborate with your students and make these “rules” together? I feel that students should have a say-so in the “rules” for their classroom because even though it’s your classroom, it’s theirs too! Decide on the “rules” collaboratively and allow the students to break into groups to design an illustration for each “rule” on a small poster (or large piece of construction paper) to later be placed on the wall. Another challenge: Does the word “rule” give a negative meaning? Should they maybe be called “reminders?”
  3. Bulletin Boards. Does your room have an ocean theme? Here’s an idea: Entitle it “A Sea of Good Work” and display random students’ stories, illustrations, math sheets, etc. as you notice their hard work. Can’t exactly use the ocean theme? Get creative and think of another way to use this to meet your needs. What about a clothes line? Place a line of string and use clothespins to hang up your students’ good work glued to laminated items of clothing.
  4. Help! I don’t know this word!” How many times do you think your students say this to themselves? Do you have anything placed on the walls for them to see as a reminder of what to do if they get into this situation? This could even cut down on how many times students are raising their hand for help with words from you. They need to be encouraged to try to figure it out on their own because that’s what good readers do. Try using these ideas for them to use: “Sound it out.”, “Check the pictures”, “Look for chunks.”, etc.
  5. Goals. Do your students have any? Have you challenged them to think of one? Have a way to show this on your walls. Entitle it: “Our Hopes and Dreams for this School Year” and have students fill out a sentence strip of their goal and create an illustration to go along with it. These could even be changed halfway through the year. Challenge your students to frequently remind themselves of their goal and work toward it throughout the year.

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia.

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Two Classroom Management Techniques Worth Trying

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by Kelli Lewis

Looking for some fresh ideas for your classroom discipline plan? Check out these two unique takes on positive reinforcement.

IDEA ONE: Plastic Money Coins

Here’s How It Works:

  1. Students have a strip of Velcro at the top of their desks.
  2. The teacher places coins, all of different worth (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters) on their Velcro strip if they are caught doing the right thing. (These coins can be found at many school supply stores, such as The School Box.)
  3. The teacher rewards them for doing their homework, for raising their hand to answer a question, walking quietly down the hallway, etc.
  4. Money can also sometimes be taken away when a student isn’t doing the right thing, but this should occur very seldom.
  5. At the end of each day, students count the coins on their Velcro strip and tell the teacher their amount as she records it on her money chart. The students place their money for the day in their “billfold” (can simply be a Ziploc bag) in their desk.
  6. And now here’s the fun part! On Fridays, students cash in their coins at the class store (for trinkets, erasers, stickers, etc.), or they can save them for another Friday. This begins to teach students the meaning of money and saving for a bigger goal.

An Added Bonus? Children become adept at counting and using money (which is a standard for lower elementary grades).

Beginner’s Tip: To get the children used to the concept of money (and the coins’ values), begin with just pennies, then progressively add the bigger coins.

IDEA TWO: Positive Points

Here’s How It Works:

  1. The students’ desks are placed together to make tables (shoot for about three to five tables total, depending on the amount of students).
  2. Each table has a name and a bucket in the middle that contains Popsicle sticks (positive points). During the day, the teacher finds the quietest table, the table that is the quickest to get quiet, etc., and she gives that table a stick/positive point.
  3. Students aren’t allowed to touch the sticks. If someone does, a stick is removed from their table. This is the only way sticks are removed.
  4. The students have to work together as a team to get one, and everyone suffers if one student gets one taken away.
  5. At the end of each day, the teacher counts the sticks aloud as a class. The class discusses greater than and less than. They also determine which table had the most sticks. The teacher then rewards each student at the winning table with a gummy worm (or any other reward the teacher decides).
  6. The teacher collects all of the sticks at the end of the day, and the process starts over for the next day.

Happy planning for your class in the fall!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia.

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Filed under Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Discipline, Math

We have a $50 winner! (and a bunch of $10 winners, too!)

Wow! What great ideas you all shared in our recent contest! We asked teachers to submit their favorite teaching practices and ideas. Every idea submitted was stellar! If you haven’t read them, you can check them out by clicking here (scroll down to view comments). I promise- they’re worth the read.

The grand prize winner, who won a $50 School Box gift card, is Leigh Ann, a music teacher who incorporates regular classroom curriculum themes into her music lessons. Here’s what she has to say:

As an elementary music teacher I like to find ways to correlate what I am doing in the classroom to what the students are studying in their regular classroom whenever I can – it enhances and supports their learning in all subject areas. So 3 times a year I email all the teachers reminding them to let me know if there are any lessons or units they will be studying that they would like for me to tie in somehow. I send out the reminder at the beginning of the school year, right after the Christmas holiday, and about 6 weeks prior to standardized testing time.

We can’t correlate everything and music (like all arts) stands alone as its own subject area; however, I find that the students enjoy making the relationship of a lesson from one classroom to another. So we learn songs from the Underground Railroad (which covers multiple Music or Social Studies standards in my state) or do Musical Mad Libs I make up to review the parts of speech prior to standardized test time, or learn songs about farm animals in Kindergarten which can easily be tied in to Music standards.

As for how it benefits the music or special area teacher, I sneak in both Music goals and Language, Math, Social Studies, Science or whatever the subject area whenever I can as it is a bit of the “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” practice. Regular classroom teachers seem much more willing to help give up a little extra time to practice for a holiday program or whatever special programs you are responsible for if you help support them when you can.

Congratulations, Leigh Ann! We applaud you for being a stand-out teacher…and a team player to boot.

Now, since all of the ideas submitted were truly stellar, The School Box is awarding everyone who commented with a $10 School Box gift card:
Jordan
Jackie Helm
Amanda Smith
Tonya
Rachel
Priscilla
Connie
Sandra
Janette Janssen

Congratulations, ladies! And thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise with our online community. A representative from The School Box will be in touch shortly with details on mailing your gift certificates to you.

Happy Summer!

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LAST DAY! Share an idea, win $50!

We have ONE DAY left in our giveaway! One person will win a $50 School Box gift card. AND- 10 more will win $10 gift cards! Here’s how to enter:

  • Simply comment on THE ORIGINAL POST (click here), sharing your favorite teaching idea or best practice (i.e. a classroom organization tip, fun project, creative assessment, awesome field trip, favorite read-aloud book, etc.). Anything you do that you like, share it!

So, come on, teachers! Take a minute, type a comment ON THE POST from 6/25, and share your wisdom. Winners will be selected by our editor and will be announced at the end of the day on 7/5/2010 on A Learning Experience!

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So…What’s Your Favorite Idea??

We have five days left in our giveaway! One person will win a $50 School Box gift card. AND- 10 more will win $10 gift cards! Here’s how to enter:

  • Simply comment on THE ORIGINAL POST (click here), sharing your favorite teaching idea or best practice (i.e. a classroom organization tip, fun project, creative assessment, awesome field trip, favorite read-aloud book, etc.). Anything you do that you like, share it!

If we put all our collective heads together, think of the genius ideas we could glean for our classrooms in the fall!

So, come on, teachers! Take a minute, type a comment ON THE POST from 6/25, and share your wisdom. Winners will be selected by our editor and will be announced on July 5 on A Learning Experience.

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