Category Archives: Morning Work

Interactive Bulletin Boards Part II: Tell Me All About It!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Welcome to Part II in our series on Interactive Bulletin Boards!

This idea, from Megan Power with Scholastic.com, is sheer genius. “If you teach young children, you know they always have something to tell you and to share with the class,” says Megan. “I love hearing their news and funny stories, but it was taking a lot of time away from getting started with our instructional day.” So, a few years ago Megan came up with the “Tell Me All About It” bulletin board, which is now a perennial class favorite.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. At the beginning of the year, attach a photo of each child to a bulletin board.
  2. Create and laminate a “speech bubble” for each child, and staple one near each student’s photo.
  3. Place a cup of dry erase markers under the board, and allow time every week or every day (like morning time) for students to write whatever is on their mind on their bubble. The dry erase markers erase easily to allow for an endless amount of chatter!
  4. Megan has a great idea for later in the year, too: “Later in the year, students make their faces with construction paper and craft materials. Changing the student faces is a great way to refresh the board and keep the excitement going all year,” she explains.

To get your students started with ideas, here are Megan’s sentence starters:

  • “My name is ___.”
  • “My favorite pet is a ____.”
  • “I like to___.”
  • “My favorite color is ___.”
  • “I am ___ years old.”
  • As the year progresses, she also has them write the whole sentence or complete the sentence starters with more words. “This weekend I ____.”
  • As students writing progresses, she opens the board up to sharing their own news without a sentence starter or question.

Parents love Megan’s board, too, and often stop to read their child’s comments. It’s a hit all around!

Put these ideas to work in your classroom and transform your ho-hum bulletin board into a flurry of learning.

For more on Megan’s classroom, visit blogs.scholastic.com. For more clever bulletin board starters, visit www.schoolbox.com.

Stay tuned for Part III in this series on Interactive Bulletin Boards, coming soon to A Learning Experience!

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Filed under Academic Success, Centers, Classroom Decor, creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Morning Work, Writing

On Schedule: Teaching Kindergartners!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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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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Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, Morning Work

Classroom Makeover Part II: Procedures

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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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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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Morning Work

Summertime = Tweaking Time

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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So, it’s summer. Time to chill, relax, unwind…and tweak! The school year is so crazy and fast-paced that, as teachers, our routines can sometimes get stuck in a rut. There’s no time to evaluate and change– only time to hold on and dash for the finish.

But summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your teaching and tweak your classroom procedures. Here are some practical, easy-to-apply ideas for the early elementary teacher.

Classroom Idea 1: Improve Student Writing

Have your students write using “4 Star Writing.” Here are the four “stars” to focus on: (1) “Use a finger space in between words.” (2) “Start each sentence with a capital letter.” (3) “Use punctuation at the end of each sentence.” (4) “Use the word wall to help spell.” Indicate these four concepts on big cutout stars to post on the wall to remind your students what makes good writing. Include illustrations/pictures on each of the cutouts to indicate the concept.

Classroom Idea 2: Word Wall!

Put up an “A to Z Word Wall” for students to use! A great way to get students involved with your Word Wall is to make posters for each letter and allow your students to draw a picture of something starting with that letter on the posters. Then, use note cards to print words that are “no excuse” words for your students to always spell correctly. Write one word on each card, and attach them to the wall under their respective letter posters. As the year goes on, you can make new cards and add to your Word Wall as your students learn more and more “no excuse” words. (For some super-useful pre-made Word Wall items, click here.)

Classroom 3: 1oo Club

A “100 Club” poster can be a real asset to give your young students the goal of learning to count to 100. The poster should state: “I can count to 100!” at the very top. Below, there should be lines where students can sign their name, any way that they would like (silly, a different color, with small pictures), once they can show you that they can count to 100. The School Box carries a 100-pocket chart that’s great for helping them achieve this milestone, as well.

Classroom Idea 4: Make the Most of Calendar Time

During calendar time, introduce your students to the “shortcut date”– writing the numeral for the month, day and year, separated by dashes (6-8-11). Once your students have the “Today’s date is…” concept down, teach them how to use the “shortcut date” on their papers. They’ll feel grown up, and they will learn to associate the date with its numeral equivalent.

For a calendar time challenge, introduce your students to how other countries write the date a little switched up! For example, in Italy, because of the way they speak, they write May 18, 2011, as 18-05-11, with the day first, then the month, then the year. This is because when verbally stating the date in Italy, they also say it differently than we do. They would say: 18th of May, 2011, instead of May 18, 2011.

There you have it: four simple ideas to implement in the fall that will maximize the lessons you’re probably already teaching. More bang for your buck! Now wasn’t that worth thinking about during your summer break? :-)

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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Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, grammar, Math, Morning Work, Writing

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 Little at a Time

by Kristin M. Woolums, M.Ed.

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We’ve all been told that doing things in small doses instead of one large task is the better way to get things done.  This is true in the classroom, as well.  Think about it:  we tell our students to study a little each night for an upcoming test, and that all night cram sessions don’t work (and actually work against a student).  Why not apply this philosophy other areas and subjects in my classroom?

Homophones in the Morning

Each day, my students and I discuss a homophone pair or trio as a part of their morning work.  For example, the homophones there, their, and there are constantly mixed up by students and adults alike.  We discuss the meanings of these words (usually accompanied by pictures or phrases for each word), the similarities and differences, why they’re easily confused in the real world, and ways to help keep them straight.  The students then use each word in a sentence (10 or more words in my 5th grade class).

By the end of the school year, we’ve introduced or reinforced the meanings of over 200 words, 2 or 3 at a time.  Students “blossom” in improvement in the use of these homophones, as well as in their sentence length and creativity. This is a must for the English language learners in my classroom, too.  See the attached list of homophones I use each day in my classroom, but many more are available online.

Daily Grammar Practice

Many students don’t enjoy grammar.  Thanks to a great grammar program called Daily Grammar Practice (DGP, for short), we take on grammar for 5 minutes each morning.  DGP is effective because it breaks down the grammar parts on a weekly sentence, but it allows students to see how the parts all fit together.  The best part is that if a student doesn’t “get” the sentence one week, there will be another one the next week, and the repetition ensures that what’s learned is not forgotten.  Offered for grades 1-12, it’s a program that I use each day with conviction.  It’s like taking a daily vitamin of grammar! (Visit dgppublishing.com)

Some other things a teacher could do on a daily basis are:

  • Estimation of whole numbers, fractions, or decimals while learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Quote of the day – give each student a quote and let them explore its origin and meaning
  • Famous figure of the day – whether it’s a famous scientist, entertainer, story character, or historical figure, the options are limitless of learning about a new person each day.
  • State or country of the day – assign each person a region to research and share with the class.

I didn’t invent anything new here, but it’s reaffirming to see how students learn so much better when they take in a little at a time.  I can’t imagine a lesson on just homophones or just estimation!  But broken down into easily digestible daily parts, these ideas are much more manageable for student and teacher alike!

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.

To submit your own ideas for publication, simply e-mail an original educational article (250-500 words) to editor@schoolbox.com. You’ll receive a $35 School Box Gift Card if you are selected for publication!

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Filed under grammar, Morning Work, Uncategorized, Writing