Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Skit! (bring the Revolutionary War to life in your class!)

by Kelli Lewis

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Skits, anyone? I always strive my hardest to make lessons and activities hands-on, engaging, interactive, and interesting because I feel that is how students learn better and learn more. I taught a week-long unit on Paul Revere and wanted to find a way to incorporate some acting for the students to perform. I searched online but found nothing. I ended up writing my own script. My class did the skit several times, to ensure that all students received a part. The students broke into groups and practiced their parts with other students who had that same part.

The skit is primarily a conversation between two modern-day peers who are discussing the Boston Tea Party. As they are discussing the events that occurred, the setting flashes back to pre-Revolutionary War Boston, and other students then act out the events.

Here’s the script:

Narrator 1: Hey, what are you doing?

Narrator 2: Oh, I’m just learning about The Boston Tea Party.

Narrator 1: A tea party? In Boston? When?

Narrator 2: No, silly. The Boston Tea Party happened a long time ago during the American Revolution.

Narrator 1: Oh, what happened?

Narrator 2: Well, the colonists were tired of King George III.

Narrator 1: What was so bad about King George III?

Narrator 2: Well, for one thing, he lived in England over 3 thousand miles away from the colonies. He was making laws and trying to rule the colonists.

Narrator 1: Were the laws fair?

Narrator 2: No, so the colonists protested.

Sons of Liberty 1: Listen here, King George III! We have our own laws!

Sons of Liberty 2: And we don’t want yours.

Sons of Liberty 3: We already pay a lot of taxes!

Sons of Liberty 1: Yeah, leave us alone!

Sons of Liberty 2: We should not have to pay a tax on tea.

Sons of Liberty 3: Let’s go talk to Paul Revere.

Narrator 1: Then what happened?

Narrator 2: Well, a man by the name of Paul Revere led a group of colonists. They called themselves the Sons of Liberty.

Narrator 1: What did they do about the taxes?

Paul Revere: Listen, men, why should we pay taxes when the king does not listen to our opinion?

Sons of Liberty 1: Yeah, no taxation without representation!

Sons of Liberty 2: Let’s do something about it!

Paul Revere: How about we form a secret club, dress up like Indians, march on board the ships, and….

Sons of Liberty 3: DUMP THE TEA!!

[Sons of Liberty 1,2,3 and Paul Revere dress as Indians.]

Narrator 1: Wait, you mean they wanted to dump the tea from all of the ships?

Narrator 2: Yes, every last bit.

Narrator 1: How would that end the tax on tea?

Narrator 2: Well, if all the tea was destroyed, then no one could pay taxes on the tea.

Narrator 1: That would get the king’s attention!

Narrator 2: Right. So on December 16, 1773….

Paul Revere: Ready men? Tonight we take over the ships.

Sons of Liberty 1: Let’s go!

Sons of Liberty 2: I’m ready!

Sons of Liberty 3: Me too!

[Sons of Liberty 1,2,3 and Paul Revere enter the ship.]

Paul Revere: Grab every pound of tea and throw it in the ocean!

[Sons of Liberty 1,2,3 and Paul Revere grab all of the tea bags and throw it overboard.]

Narrator 1: It sounds like Boston was a real hot spot in the American Revolution.

Narrator 2: Yeah, the scene of a very famous party!

Narrator 1: Not just any party…the Boston Tea Party!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia whose great ideas we are honored to share on A Learning Experience!

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Filed under Academic Success, Assessments, Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, History

Start a Service Learning Project!

by Rachel Stepp

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Is there a need in your community that your class could fulfill? Sure there is!

Service-learning involves students working to help meet a need in the community while learning academically and engaging in life skills. At first, the idea of bringing a service-learning project into your own classroom might seem overwhelming, but the outcome is worth the time! Here’s how to start your own project:

Talk with Your Students to Identify a Need. By talking with your students to identify a community need, you are allowing them to create their own project. The students live within their own community, and they often recognize needs that adults seem to ignore. For example, some of your students might realize that the local public playground has mud under the play-set, and it would be great to have mulch or grass instead of mud. Little ideas can grow into great projects. During this step, it is most important to listen to your students.

Make a Plan. What would it take to carry out your service-learning project? What information will you need to know in order to finish the project? This is where you, as the teacher, can talk academically with your students. If your class is going to repair a local playground, there are many things they are going to need to know. A few examples are:

  • What do we cover the ground with, and why? (research)
  • How do we go about covering the ground? (research, communication)
  • How will we afford to do this project? (write proposals and letters for support, hold fundraisers, mathematics involving counting/managing money)
  • How much ground cover do we need? (math-area)
  • How will we maintain the property? (educate others through speeches or letters, survey and collect data to see how often the playground is used)

Do It! Now that you have all of the bones to your project, it is time to get started. Contacting someone, whether it is your principal or your city’s mayor, can be intimidating, but it is worth the chance! Once you get the permission to continue with your project, involve your students constantly. It is their project, and the more work that they are able to do, the more accomplished they will feel.

Reflect. After your class has finished their service-learning project, allow them to reflect on what they have done. Has it changed them as an individual? How will it affect their community? Will they use the playground more often now that it is fixed? Students can reflect through writing, drawing, creating scrapbooks and more.

Demonstrate/Celebrate. When all of the hard work is done, you and your class need to enjoy what you’ve accomplished! Hold an event at your service-learning project location. If you were at the playground, plan a day of play and a picnic lunch. Invite people from the community to come to your celebration. Students can prepare speeches about their work to share with others.

To successfully complete a service-learning project, it is important to remember that students need to be actively engaged in service and in academic learning at the same time. If you’re still not convinced, studies have shown that service-learning projects raise attendance, gain students’ interest, build stronger teacher/student relationships, and more!

Here is a website that has some more ideas for service-learning projects: http://www.servicelearning.org/instant_info/a-z_topics

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, Teacher Inspiration

The Reading Pond: Creating an Enchanting Reading Corner

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by Rachel Stepp

By creatively designing parts of your classroom, you can intrigue students to utilize these areas properly and often. One space that I think is important to put time into designing is the classroom library.

The Reading Pond

  1. PICK A SPOT. Designate one corner of your classroom as the reading area. This area can carry an enchanting theme of the “Reading Pond” by incorporating cool colors (blues & greens), water themes, and maybe even a pet fish or two!
  2. FABRIC. To get started, drape some strips of blue fabric from the ceiling to create fabric swag over the lights. This will add softer lighting to this area. At the end of the fabric, drape blue bead curtains or skinny strips of blue fabric that go all the way to the floor. The curtain of fabric hanging from the ceiling to the floor will create a secluded area where students will feel comfortable reading. The blue fabric can be the “waterfall” that fills the “Reading Pond.”
  3. PAINT. Paint your bookshelves blue as if they are water. Fill your shelves with all kinds of books that students would be interested in reading. Display the books in baskets, so that the covers face forward. When students are able to look at the covers instead of just the spines of books, they are more likely to choose a book they will enjoy.
  4. PEER INVOLVEMENT. Along the wall, give the students an area where they can suggest books to their classmates. Call this area, “Catch a good book!” Draw or cut out a fishing pole and put it on the wall. Also, cut out many blank fish shapes out of construction paper. These paper fish can be stored in a clear fishbowl that is accessible to the students. Students can recommend a good book to their peers by writing the title, author, and their name on a paper fish and then taping it to the wall.
  5. PILLOWS AND STUFFED FRIENDS. Floor space should be comfortable so that students want to spend time in the reading area. You can do this by putting green bean bag chairs or green pillows that represent “lily pads” in the “Reading Pond.” You can also add pond-related stuffed animals such as frogs, fish, and water snakes that students can read to and have as reading companions.

This is just one idea for making your classroom creative and inviting. Remember, it is important to create an environment that makes your students feel safe and comfortable so that they can challenge themselves in the classroom. It would even be possible to carry to water theme throughout your entire classroom!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Academic Success, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

5 Cheap Fieldtrips for Fall!

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by Rachel Stepp

With cutbacks and limitations to money for field trips, it is easy to lose the desire to plan successful field trips for your classes. Here are few ideas for trips that you might want to use this upcoming school year:

1. Farm

Visit a local farm this season. Usually, farmers are willing to give students tours of their farms and allow students to pick some of their own vegetables and fruits. Also, students love to see farm animals and get to participate in animal care. For example, during the fall, students might enjoy going to a pumpkin farm. This will let them learn about science (vegetables, farming, insects, weather), social studies (economy, careers), and more.

2. Park

Most communities have local parks where students can explore nature while also exercising and playing team sports. By calling your local park services, you can find out whether or not your nature parks have guided tours or nature trails. Parks with archeological backgrounds or monuments add character to park trips. After your students have explored the park and its contents, then they can have a picnic or play sports. A rousing game of kickball or softball is a great class team builder, too!

3. Grocery Store

Most of your students have probably been to the grocery store with their parents or guardians, but they probably have not been behind the scenes. Contact your local store and ask them if they conduct group tours. Students can see the bakery and warehouse areas of a grocery store. Give your students a budget as they learn to calculate money. Make fake checkbooks for your students so that they can practice writing checks after they have collected the items from their grocery lists. Maybe your grocery store will also allow your students to scan their own groceries and pretend to be a cashier! To end the field trip, buy a simple snack to take back to the classroom and discuss the different aspects of the store.

4. Bank

Many young people are growing up without exposure to checks or cash because of the popularity of debit and credit cards. Plan a trip to a bank so that students can learn about checks, the history of American currency, counting money and more. This would be a great trip to take while students are learning about creating their own budgets and how to manage money! This will be a step into the real world that will teach them life long skills and possibilities.

5. Virtual Field Trip

If it is not possible to actually leave the school for a field trip, you can take your students on a virtual field trip! It is simple to find images and videos on the Internet of places around your community, state and even the world. Once you find these elements, combine them into a presentation that you can show students. While exploring images and videos, bring food, objects, or smells that coordinate with your presentation to make the experience more lifelike. If possible, you can decorate different classrooms in your school that students can explore as if they were different parts of your field trip location. In each room, students can participate in various activities such as dances, crafts, cooking and foreign language. This field trip option allows for classes to go further than ever before…you could even go to space!

Ask your students what they are interested about within their community to get ideas. Also, see if it is possible for your class to walk on their field trip to cut costs. These field trips will not only broaden your students’ horizons, but they will also introduce possible career paths…all without taxing your school’s tight budget.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Field Trips, Uncategorized

BINGO! A New Twist for a Classic Classroom Game

Want to know a simple twist for Bingo that can be used to reinforce phonological awareness? I call it Rhyming Bingo.

How the Game Works:

  1. In Rhyming Bingo, students are given prepared 4×4 square Bingo cards that contain pictures such as a cat, a bone, and a sock. These pictures can be found in clip art from the Internet or on word processing software (or hand-drawn if you’re crafty!).
  2. Then, the teacher calls out cards that contain rhyming words that would match with the students’ boards such as “bat,” “phone,” and “rock.”
  3. The students then put down a Bingo chip (which can be found at supply stores such as The School Box) on the corresponding rhyming word. For example, the teacher might say, “sail.” Then, the student would respond by putting a Bingo chip on the picture of “mail.”
  4. The students would continue to play until someone covers their entire board. There is so much critical thinking involved in this game, and students LOVE it!

Make it More Challenging:

You can vary this activity for advanced students by choosing words that are difficult or uncommon. You can also add the spelling of the words on the Bingo cards to help students.

Make it More Creative:

  1. Students can draw their own pictures on their Bingo cards according to a preset word list created by the teacher. By doing this, the teacher already knows that he/she has call out cards that will rhyme with the students’ drawings, and he/she knows what the students have drawn on their cards.
  2. Students can draw their own pictures on their Bingo cards based on their own rhyming words. For example, the teacher would give the students a list of words that she will use as call out cards. Then the students would think of words that rhyme with the call out words and draw their pictures based on their new words. This gives the students responsibility and challenges them to think more.

By bringing these ideas into your classroom, the students feel more accomplished, and there will be more variety in the classroom. This game can work in whole class settings and with small groups. It is a great way to mix fun with phonics!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Academic Success, Games, Phonics

Create an Interactive Bulletin Board!

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by Rachel Stepp

Classrooms need to be designed with students in mind, and one way to bring student involvement into your room design is by creating an interactive bulletin board. Here are some ideas to take your board from blah to brilliant!

1. Did You Know?

Create a spot where you can post a simple question related to something in your curriculum. Students can then move a clothespin that has their names written on it to a side of a poster where one side represents, “Yes, I knew that!” and the other side states, “No, I did not know that, but I do now!” By doing this, you can pre-assess your students and understand their background knowledge.

2. Challenge Question

Post a question each week that relates to what your students are learning but challenges them to think deeper. You can keep track of this by using a library pocket (available at stores such as The School Box) to hold blank answer sheets and another library pocket to hold students’ answer submissions. At the end of the week, students who answered correctly can win a homework pass or another incentive.

3. Question of the Day

Create a poster that has a spot to place a new question everyday. This question can be secured with a tack or tape. The questions posed can be multiple choice questions about topics that were previously taught. At the bottom of the poster, place three library pockets labeled “A,” “B,” and “C.” Students can answer the question of the day by putting a Popsicle stick with their name on it into the pocket that corresponds with their answer. Students can answer this question as they first come into the classroom or as morning work. This is a great way to review and assess students!

4. Related Work Folders

At the bottom of your bulletin board, you can create file folder pockets (using stapled file folders) for each subject area you teach in your classroom. In these pockets, you can put related worksheets or activity guides for students to complete during their spare time. For example, in the Language Arts file folder pocket, you might place a worksheet about verbs because your students studied verbs the week before. Having worksheets for the students to work on during their own time eliminates off-task behaviors and unproductive down time.

An interactive bulletin board is great for any classroom because once it has been created, it can easily be altered without redoing the entire bulletin board. The questions can be changed for any topic and grade level. If you do not have a spare bulletin board, any one of these ideas can be implemented on a sheet of poster board, as well.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

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Filed under Academic Success, Assessments, Classroom Decor, Morning Work

A Great List of Activities…Themed by Alphabet Letter!

Looking for a fun way to teach the alphabet and keep students engaged in reading?  Here’s a super creative list of books and activities to coordinate with EVERY letter of the alphabet. Yowsa, this is a great resource!

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by Kelli Lewis

This list of activities is perfect for students in Pre-K and Kindergarten who are learning their ABC’s! This is also a great way to incorporate activities from several subject areas throughout the day. You can make this as simple or as challenging as needed, depending on your students. After each lesson, the books can be displayed in a special “ABC books” basket or shelf, so that students are able to return to them often.

Alphabet Themed Books & Activities

Letter: A

Theme: amazing animals

Activity: students come to school with their favorite stuffed animal

Book: Corduroy, by Don Freeman

Letter: B

Theme: bogus bubbles

Activity: students play with bubbles outside

Book: Bubble Trouble, by Margaret Mahy

Letter: C

Theme: crazy chalk

Activity: students are given an opportunity to write with chalk on a sidewalk

Book: Chalk & Cheese, by Tim Warnes

Letter: D

Theme: delicious donuts with dad

Activity: dads come to school and have donuts for breakfast with their child

Book: Arnie the Doughnut, by Laurie Keller

Letter: E

Theme: easy elephants

Activity: students will learn about elephants and make elephant masks out of paper plates by stapling on ears, etc. and eat imitation elephant ears (tortilla, butter, cinnamon)

Book: Elephants Can Paint Too!, by Katya Arnold

Letter: F

Theme: funny feet

Activity: students wear silly socks to school

Book: The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss

Letter: G

Theme: great glasses

Activity: students wear sunglasses, or any type of glasses they want, to school

Book: I Need Glasses, by Virginia Dooley

Letter: H

Theme: hideous hat day

Activity: students are allowed to wear a hat to school

Book: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss

Letter: I

Theme: indescribable ice cream sundaes

Activity: students make ice cream sundaes

Book: Ice Cream Everywhere, by Stephanie Roth

Letter: J

Theme: jammin’ jammies

Activity: students and teachers may wear their pajamas to school

Book: Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

Letter: K

Theme: kiddy kites

Activity: students bring in their favorite kite and get to fly them at outside

Book: Curious George Flies a Kite, by H. A. Rey

Letter: L

Theme: licking lollipops

Activity: students will be given huge lollipops

Book: Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan

Letter: M

Theme: magnificent muffins with mom

Activity: moms come to school and have muffins for breakfast with their child

Book: If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Numeroff

Letter: N

Theme: nice necklaces

Activity: students make a necklace out of beads for someone “nice” or special in their lives (ex. Mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, neighbor, etc.)

Book: The Loon’s Necklace, by William Toye

Letter: O

Theme: outside oranges

Activity: students eat oranges outside and learn facts about oranges

Book: The Big Orange Splot, by D. Manus Pinkwater

Letter: P

Theme: perfect popcorn

Activity: students eat popcorn and/or make popcorn crafts

Book: The Popcorn Book, by Tomie dePaola

Letter: Q

Theme: quaint quilts

Activity: students bring their favorite quilt/blanket to school and have a picnic together outside for snack/lunch

Book: The Patchwork Quilt, by Valerie Flournoy

Letter: R

Theme: ready readers

Activity: students bring their favorite book to school, share their books, and have a reading day outside with blankets

Book: Use your personal favorite picture book to share

Letter: S

Theme: sunny sandcastles

Activity: students are given opportunity to play in sand and make sandcastles

Book: The Sandcastle Contest, by Robert Munsch

Letter: T

Theme: terribly tacky

Activity: students come to school dressed the tackiest they can

Book: Tacky the Penguin, by Helen Lester

Letter: U

Theme: unbelievable unicorns

Activity: students learn about unicorns (mystical animals), and create/invent their own mystical animal

Book: The Dragon and the Unicorn, by Lynne Cherry

Letter: V

Theme: voluptuous vegetables

Activity: students eat a variety of vegetables, learn facts about them, and how important they are for you (ex. carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, etc.)

Book: The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin

Letter: W

Theme: wild & wet

Activity: students bring a change of clothes and play with water guns, water balloons, etc.

Book: Wet Dog!, by Elise Broach

Letter: X

Theme: eXtra xylophones

Activity: students learn about xylophones and play them together

Book: Pooh’s Xylophone Book, by Publications International Staff

Letter: Y

Theme: yellow youngsters

Activity: students wear as much yellow as they can to school

Book: The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger

Letter: Z

Theme: zany zebras

Activity: students learn about zebras and make zebra masks using paint

Book: Greedy Zebra, by Mwenye Hadithi & Adrienne Kennaway

And that’s a wrap. Enjoy these activities, which make reading as easy as A, B, C!

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

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Filed under comprehension, Phonics, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers

What’s in a Word? Quite a LOT!

by Kelli Lewis

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How can you improve participation, increase motivation and encourage excitement over learning without expending much effort or spending a dime? Stumped? The answer is actually on the tip of your tongue. Literally.

There’s a lot of power in the way you say things to your students. Here are some simple tips for turning daily classroom discussions into positively-charged learning experiences.

Tone it Down

Opting for normal conversational language, rather than an academic-sounding tone, is more engaging and less intimidating (not to mention less boring!). Opt for an inviting, conversational tone. Directing conversations at students’ lives and feelings can also lead to a surprising amount of  learning. Not everything has to be school-related (gasp!). Showing that you care and are interested in their lives paves the way for open minds and eager learners.

Try This:

  • “How are you doing?”
  • “What did you do this weekend?”

Don’t Pick the Orchid

One of my college professors used to say “don’t pick the orchid”–meaning don’t lead your students to a bed of flowers and then rob them of the joy of picking for themselves. Instead, allow the students to explore, talk it out and come to their own conclusions–without encouraging a certain way of thinking. Try using questions that engage the students to think on their own, instead of questions that seek a particular answer. And, rather than providing further information after a student answers a question, just simply repeat the student’s statement and give him or her time to go further independently.

Try This:

  • “What’s one more thing you could add?”
  • “How are you going to challenge yourself?”
  • “How do you feel about that?”
  • “What do you think about that?”
  • “Imagine what this would look like….”
  • “How did you figure that out?”
  • “What did you notice?”
  • “That’s what readers do!”
  • “What are you doing as a reader today?”
  • “Why do you think a reader would do that?” (OR: mathematicians, scientists, writers, etc.)
  • “What’s your reason for that?”
  • “How could you check?”
  • “What part are you sure about?”

Redirect Behavior

When it comes to addressing negative student behavior, try to phrase your response in a positive way.

Try This:

  • “What does ‘great’ look like to you?”
  • “This isn’t like you; what do you think is the problem?”
  • “How could we address this?”
  • “Is that the right decision?”
  • “Let’s think about how we could do this.”

Talk Like the Glass is Half Full

Using generally positive statements goes a LONG way toward a positive classroom environment. Here are a few to incorporate into your daily dialogue.

Try This:

  • “We get to have Math class, now!” (as opposed to “We have to do Math, now.”)
  • DON’T SAY: “Get your work done, then you can play.” (which implies that school is “work” and not fun)

It takes a little diligence to watch our speech, but the power of our words can be transformational in the classroom!

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

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Filed under Academic Success, Classroom Community, Discipline