Monthly Archives: July 2011

another lucky comment winner!

Here’s another randomly selected comment winner, who just scored a $20 gift card to The School Box to work on her real-life classroom makeover!

Congrats, Rebekah! We’ll draw another winner in a bit. To enter, simply comment on the posts on A Learning Experience. We love hearing your thoughts, too. We think our readers are the smartest. :)

Original Comment:

Rebekah Hurst

This article is so true. As a first year teacher this year, I worked hard to think through each part of the day so that I would have a procedure in mind to teach the students. We worked each day for the first week learning these procedures, and it was amazing to see how much that paid off. There were lots of things in my classroom that pretty much ran themselves because the students knew what to do and when to do it. This not only helped me, but my substitute teachers were also very appreciative as well. Teaching and practicing procedures at the beginning of the year cannot be emphasized enough!

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On Schedule: Teaching Kindergartners!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card!

Are you moving down to kindergarten this year, or perhaps starting your very first year teaching and have just found out you have kindergarteners? Whatever the situation, all of us kindergarten teachers know that being on a schedule–and having students learn this schedule–is key.

Here’s a creative, hands-on way to make sure your students will have their schedule down in no time!

First, decide the different parts of your daily schedule. You may also want to include events that could occur weekly, monthly, or throughout the year: morning work, morning meeting, lunch, library, recess, literacy centers, math time, bathroom break, assembly, specials (music, art, P.E., computer lab), etc.

Next, create some type of visual pieces for each of these events. This can consist of small index cards (something around 4×4), or you could get creative and make puzzle-looking pieces. These pieces should include the name of the scheduled event and a picture.

For example, if you’re making a lunch piece, write or type “lunch” at the top and put a picture of a sack lunch or a lunch tray with food, so that students know what the piece indicates without having to know how to read the word. This is also a great way for students to learn letter sounds and words that are used daily in the classroom.

Finally, once all of your scheduled pieces are made, laminate them so that they hold up. Decide how you want students to be able to work with them. My suggestion is to have students put each of the pieces in the order of your schedule. Use a magnetic cookie sheet, dry erase board, corkboard, felt board, or some way for students to pick up, place, and move the pieces around as they figure it out. If you choose one of these options, you’ll need to place a magnet or Velcro piece on the back of each laminated piece. If you’re using a corkboard, of course, you’ll need large pushpins for attaching the pieces.

Do you have classroom jobs? If so, this scheduling activity can be one of the jobs for the students to alternate doing every morning, in order to give them all a chance to participate–as well as giving them a part in creating the visual schedule for everyone to view throughout the way. Of course, as the teacher, you should double check their order and perhaps even review the schedule as part of your daily morning routine or morning meeting.

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!

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First Day of School

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card!!

It’s that time of the year again…the time when you begin to think about how you’re going to start off the school year with your new set of students. Possibly you’ve been doing this for several years and have everything pretty much decided, but you’d like a fresh idea or two. Perhaps you’re starting your first year as a brand new teacher and don’t have much of a clue as to where to start. Whatever your experiences and reasoning for needing some worry-free tips, there is no need in worrying any longer. Here are some suggestions that are sure to be the perfect prescription to relieve those first-day-of-school worries.

1. Be sure to greet each and every one of your students at the door when they come in.

2. Have a fun activity on their desks for them to do.

3. Make nametags for students to wear for first week or so, until you feel that you’ve got their names down pat (and to help them learn each others’ names, too).

4. Have a meeting on the reading rug to hold some “get to know me” discussions, so that the students know who their teacher is. Be sure to include pictures of you, your family, pets, etc.

5. Read The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn

This charming book is about a young raccoon who is reluctant to go to school…until he gets some wisdom from his mother.

6. Take students on a school tour and hunt for “Chester.” You can use any name for any stuffed animal of some type. Have clues along the way so that students get acquainted with their school while having fun searching for the little critter you hid ahead of time!

7. Discuss expectations, behavior, and create class rules/norms together as a class family. Allow students to work together with you to create the rules, allowing them a say-so in how their classroom will run.

8. Allow students to make something for their parents. “What did you think/learn on your first day of ___ grade?”

9. Send students home with labels that indicate their transportation, bus #, etc.

10. Send home a letter to parents…welcoming them, and letting them know what a wonderful first day you had meeting their student. Be sure to share with them what you did on their first day and their agreement to the classroom rules/norms, as well as your expectations of their student and of them.

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!

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Classroom Makeover Part III: Behavior Management Procedures

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card!

Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series shares a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!

Tackling Tattling: Refreshing Discipline Tactics

Complaint Box

Do you want a new way to handle complaining issues in your classroom? This idea will help students get over their complaints, clear their minds, and move on!

Students tattling or nagging about little things can use this as a way to vent, without bogging you down with non-essentials.

Create a Safe Spot: First, designate a special box (or trash can, so students know they are literally “throwing away” their complaint). Then, put strips of paper next to it, where students can write down their complaint before depositing it into the box/can.

The Power of Writing: By writing it down and giving it up, students learn an effective strategy to get rid of a complaint and move on with their day.

To Read or Not to Read: These can either be private (no one–not even you–will read them), or if you would like to read them, just tell your students they’ll remain between them and you. Some situations may warrant further action on your part, but mostly, you’ll find that the complaints in this box resolve themselves.

“Help Me Find a Resolution” Box

Sometimes student issues are a little bigger and do need an intervention on your part. Here’s where students can go when it’s not an appropriate time to vent to you, but they do need your help.

Create a Safe Spot: Designate a box or mailbox where students can write down issues they’re having with someone (even another student). They drop their paper in the box and “put it on hold” for now. They need not let it bother them for the rest of the day because they know it will be discussed later.

Resolve Every Morning: This box is opened every morning, during Morning Meeting, and the teacher reads them one by one. (Obviously, you need to read through them beforehand, to make sure they’re appropriate to read aloud. Some may best be dealt with privately, and some may need to be tossed–or given back to the student to transfer to the “Complaint Box,” above.)

The student who wrote the issue then states whether they still need to discuss it or if it has been resolved since they wrote it. If it has been resolved, it is tossed. If it is still an issue, students work together to determine ways to deal with it. Maybe there needs to be an apology. Maybe the people involved need to discuss their reasoning for doing what they did, as well as how they were feeling.

Peer Feedback: If need be, the other students can give suggestions to their peers on how they could have handled the issue differently.

Students need to be aware that this isn’t a place to put little bitty tattlings that they can resolve on their own (that’s the “Complaint Box”). This is where they come when they’ve tried to resolve it, but still need help.

If done correctly and with sensitivity, this Resolutions Box builds a sense of a classroom “family” where the students care about each other…and are held accountable for how they treat each other.

Talk to the Ear

This idea reminds me of that good ‘ol saying from a few years back: “Talk to the hand.”

This idea works best with younger elementary students–and is a good option for pre-writers who can’t use the two ideas above.

Post an Ear: Post a laminated picture of an ear in a corner of the room. Or–if you have access to one–put a plastic ear on an inconspicuous student-accessible shelf or table.

Redirect to the Ear: When a student comes to you with a trivial issue, tell them to “go tell the ear.” They can then go over to the ear and whisper their complaint or issue.

Of course, this only works with younger students–and should only be used when the issue really is trivial. But, surprisingly, it makes young students feel like they have been “heard” and helps them get on with their day…now that they’ve voiced their concern to a “listening ear.”

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!

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Classroom Makeover Part II: Procedures

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are drawn monthly!

Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series will share a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!

Procedures that Make Sense

Establishing procedures for your students helps a classroom run much more smoothly…and keeps interruptions at bay. (“Can I sharpen my pencil? Can I go to the bathroom now? Is it time for lunch?”) Here are some tried-and-true tips for sharing your expectations and procedures with your students– from the get-go!

Label Your Drawers

So that your students know where the glue sticks, extra pencils, notebook paper and other supplies are located: type, print and laminate labels for all of the cupboards and drawers in your classroom. Attach them with rectangles of clear contact paper, cut a half-inch larger than the labels on all sides. Include a picture if you teach pre-readers. The labels will greatly help substitute teachers and parent volunteers, as well!

Post Your Schedule

Type or write each element of your schedule on cardstock, then laminate them (morning work, science, reading, lunch, recess, etc.). Post the components on your white board, and rearrange each day to show the day’s routine.

Communicate Your Expectations

At the beginning of the year, when you go over your expectations for procedures, print a list that includes when/how to leave the classroom (is there a pass to take?), go to the restroom (are their certain times that are appropriate?), sharpen your pencil, enter in the morning, order lunch, etc. Give each student a list of your expectations to keep in a binder, and post a copy in your classroom, as well. For an extensive list of procedures and ideas, see this article from Scholastic.

If you have older students (~2nd grade and up), ask for their input on classroom procedures: When do you think it would be smart for us to all sharpen our pencils? How should we ask for help so we don’t interrupt each other when we’re working? What might be a good way to walk in the hallway/enter our classroom/store our book bags? Engaging them in this conversation makes them aware of the reason behind the procedures: to ensure a smooth-running, courteous and safe classroom.

What To Do When You’re “Done”

To avoid the dreaded “I’m done…what do I do now?” question, try this fun idea from this previous post. Have your students create a list of classroom-appropriate ideas to fill your “When I’m Done” jar.

Giving a little thought to your procedures now, during the summer, will ensure a smooth-running classroom come August!

For more tools to help streamline your classroom, check out http://www.schoolbox.com/Teacher-Essentials.aspx.

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Winner of $20 School Box Gift Card!!

So, we’re in the midst of a series on classroom makeovers at the moment. The second article is coming tomorrow, but in the meantime, we thought it would be fun to reward one of our lucky commenters with a $20 School Box gift card, to help with his or her “real life” classroom makeover!

Our randomly-selected lucky winner today is…

Janette Eicken Janssen

Congratulations, Janette! Pam from The School Box will be in touch shortly with details on receiving your gift card. Enjoy!

And…don’t fret if you didn’t win. We’ll announce a SECOND winner shortly! To “enter” simply comment on a recent or forthcoming article on A Learning Experience. We love hearing your thoughts!

Best,

Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.
Editor
A Learning Experience

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Classroom Makeover Part I: Print-Rich Environment

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are drawn monthly!

Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series will share a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!

 

Creating a Print-Rich Environment

It’s a researched fact: children exposed to high-quality print in abundance are better readers. But, kids are just like adults: they want things (like books) to be nice, pretty and attractive before they pick them up. So, if your class library is a little less than attractive (read: tattered hand-me-downs wedged onto a spare shelf), check out these tips for creating an effective reading corner that will lure children into literacy.

First: Place Books With Covers Outward

Reading guru Jim Trelease makes the point that grocery stores arrange products with the fronts of packaging–not the spines–facing outward. Why? To attract buyers. But, how do we usually shelve books for children? Like this:


photo from www.trelease-on-reading.com

The solution? Face covers outward. Here are two ways to do just that.

TIP ONE: Install rain gutters!

This one would take some approval (it involves drilling), but look how GREAT this is. Inexpensive rain gutters make incredible, inviting book holders. Jim Trelease shares many success stories on this method on his website. Here are two photos, to show you how cute this is:

TIP TWO: Book baskets

This idea is easier and even less expensive than the gutters. Simply snag a bunch of cheap baskets from your local big-box store. Then, create genre labels for each basket by printing genres (mysteries, historical fiction, picture books, sports books, adventures, etc.) on cardstock, cutting them into small rectangles, laminating them, and attaching the labels to the front of each basket. Place books in baskets, covers facing outward. The books in a basket will overlap and cover each other obviously, but the front cover will face outward invitingly. Line up baskets side-by-side on your shelves, and voila! A colorful, inviting, well-organized library that children will literally run to when they first walk in the door. (The baskets also teach children to search for book by genre…another good literary lesson.)

Second: Comfy seating

Any non-school-looking seating options make for a great reading corner: an old rug, a couple beanbag chairs, a slew of pillows, a stack of carpet squares, a hand-me-down love seat, a futon. My elementary school library even had an old ceramic bathtub filled will pillows! It was THE hot spot in the library, of course. Any way you can set this space apart as fun and different will create positive connotations with literacy for your students.

Third: Fun lighting

A couple small lamps on the top of a bookshelf add a warm, inviting ambiance to your reading corner. Again, it’s all about giving the corner that “Oooh!-effect” when students walk in.

Fourth: Kids’ book reviews

Post a bulletin board above your reading corner that says: “Books We Dig.” You can decorate the bulletin board with a paper bucket and some paper “dirt” at the bottom (coffee grounds glued onto brown construction or bulletin board paper are cute…and smell Starbucks-y :). Tie a real plastic shovel on as an accent. Then, put a stack of colorful note cards nearby, and tell your class that after they read a book in the class library, they can recommend it to their classmates by writing a review for it on a note card, which you can then staple or tack onto the bulletin board. Include a sample card on the board that looks something like this:

Title:

Author:

Genre:

Why Was It Good?

Two-Sentence Summary (no spoilers!):

Do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year on how to write an effective book review, using this format. (“No spoilers” is a simple reminder not to give away the ending!)

Then, when your students say, “But I don’t know WHAT to read!”–tell them to read their classmates’ reviews and pick a book.

Fifth: Stock the shelves

To stock your library with children’s books, check out garage sales, ask for donations from parents, and create a Library Wish List to send home (or post at Open House), listing titles your kids are asking for. For a large selection of children’s books at really great prices, check out: www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx.

Another idea: If you have a budget to play with, check out this awesome two-sided library shelf from The School Box (LOVE that store!): double sided library shelf.

Now that your reading corner has been sufficiently spiffed up, give yourself a pat on the back. You just created an inviting print-rich environment!

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Combatting School Stress: Removing the “Grind” from Back-to-the-Grind

adapted from an article by Daniela Baker

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are drawn each month.

So, in less than a month, summer will be drawing to a close. *big sigh* Are your kids excited about the new school year? Nervous? Filled with dread? Whatever their emotions, here’s a rundown of how to help them (and possibly yourself!) stay stress-free this year.

Why all the stress?

So, first, let’s peek into the brain of a child and see where all this stress is coming from, shall we? Here are the top reasons that children experience school-related stress:

• Being away from home

• Adjusting to new routines

• Worrying about not making new friends

• Fearing punishment from teacher and other school staff

• Fearing not being able to perform as well as classmates

• Worrying about not being able to complete homework assignments

That’s a lot going on in the head of our wee ones, isn’t it? So, let’s see how all this pressure can affect them:

What childhood stress may look like

• Physical: nausea, stomach aches, headaches, wetting

• Emotional: fear, anxiety, irritability, depression

• Behavioral: crying, temper tantrums, repetitive movements (rocking, humming)

• Interpersonal relationships: withdrawal, isolation, extreme shyness, or bullying and teasing

How these symptoms play out depends on the individual child: one child may become depressed and withdraw from others, while another child may experience headaches, and another may lash out through teasing and bullying. In a school setting, stress reactions may also include difficulty focusing, inability to follow directions, or failure to complete in-class assignments.

Helping your child cope with stress

Okay, now here’s why you started reading to begin with: What you can do to help your child. According to Virginia Molgaard, Human Development and Family Studies of the Iowa State University Extension Center, there are several strategies to help your child effectively cope with school-related stress:

• Talk It Out. Encourage your child to talk about whatever stress s/he is experiencing. Allow your child to start the conversation rather than force it by asking too many questions. A good time to do this is at snack time when they first come home from school or during bedtime. Rather than asking “What’s wrong?” ask “How was your day?” a more open-ended question that allows your child to decide how much to disclose. Remain non-judgmental about what your child tells you so that he or she feels comfortable sharing.

• Work It Out. Participate in a family-oriented exercise program, such as biking hiking, or swimming to reduce stress levels.

• Bond One-on-One. Devote specific periods for one-on-one time. Identify hobbies or other activities that you and your child can do together. This provides a great way to have fun with your child while also fostering conversation.

• Eat Right. Maintaining healthy eating habits will teach your child that good nutrition enables their bodies to better cope with stressful situations.

• Relax Together. Teach relaxation techniques. One method is to have them sit quietly and take slow breaths while visualizing pleasant scenes such as a past birthday party, vacation, or other happy occasion. As with a healthy diet, relaxation provides a boost to the immune system helping the body to ward of the negative side-effects of stress.

• Hug, Hug, Hug. Provide plenty of physical comfort such as hugs and back rubs as these help your child feel secure and relax. Gentle touch is a very strong stress reducer.

• Combat Perfectionism. Teach your child that mistakes are okay and just part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes (including parents!)

• Set Rules and Consequences. Clearly define the ground rules for misconduct by letting your child know what is expected of him or her and together deciding on the consequences. Be sure to follow through as children need consistency in both word and deed.

• Role Play. Role play different ways to handle stressful situations. If your child will be starting school, use your child’s stuffed toys or dolls to act out the first day so they can know what to expect. It may be a good idea to confer with their teacher regarding the schedule so your role play can be genuine.

• Role Model. Share stories from your own life regarding how you handled stressful situations. Tailor your story to what your child is experiencing. For example, if your child is fearful, describe a situation in which you were afraid and how you coped with it. You can also read a story in a book that illustrates how different children cope with stressful situations.

Life is stressful. It is in how we cope with it that counts. Just think how better equipped your child will be for life after you help them through their school-time stress. Watching your child struggle is never fun– but teaching them lessons they’ll have for life is priceless.

Daniela Baker is a mother of two and a blogger at CreditDonkey, where she shares tips on college student credit cards and budgeting for success. 

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