Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Creating a Classroom Community with Memory Makers

I'm always looking for ways to build a community within my classroom.  A couple of years ago, I began using memory makers.  My students love it!

It's very simple to create and keep going.  So, what is it?  Students write down events that have occurred in the classroom.  These events can be funny, sad, exciting, you name it.  For example, if a student masters being able to skip count by 3s, that can be very exciting for them and a memory worth keeping.  The student writes the memory down on a memory slip, and places it in the memory maker box.  Maybe YOU did something that the students thought was funny, that could be a memory to write down too!  Memories are endless!

What makes this really fun and the most exciting for the students is when you go back and read the memories.  They love to reminisce!  I typically share the memory slips about once a quarter.  We spend a bit of time reading the memory slips and do a little reminiscing at the same time.  I then give the students their memory slips to take home with them.

This is a very simple addition to the classroom that cultivates a community and something that the students are excited to participate in.

You can download the free printable HERE.  Now, go build some memories!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

10 Ways to Quickly Check for Understanding: Formative Assessment

With school starting back for many teachers, lesson plans is at the top of the to-do list, and planning creative and effective lesson plans is a high priority. One important component to any lesson is checking for students' understanding. A quick and simple formative assessment can be beneficial not only to the students, but to the teacher as well because this quick assessment can help the teacher know what the students understand and what they don't. Here are 10 of my favorite ways to quickly check for understanding that will work for almost any lesson.

Thumbs up/Thumbs down. Use this strategy by simply asking questions. If the students agree or think the answer is correct, they give a thumbs up. If they disagree or think the answer is incorrect, they give a thumbs down.

Individual White Boards. Students can write a simple answer on the white board and turn it around. This is a great way to quickly see who understands the concept and who does not. This is great for math or for any short answers that can be quickly seen by the teacher.

Quick Write- This is a timed writing response. Give students a prompt related to the lesson and a minute or two to write a response. The teacher can take up and read to quickly determine if further instruction is necessary.

5 Words- Students use 5 words to describe the topic of the lesson and explain and justify their word choices.

Top 10 List or Top 10 Takeaways. Students simply list their top 10 ideas that they feel were the most important key points to the lesson. This one is great for the end of of longer unit of study.

Opinion Chart- Have each student to draw a T chart on his/her paper. At the top on the left write Opinion. At the top on the right, write Evidence. Students complete the chart by writing an opinion about the topic they have just learned, then on the right, justify their answer with evidence from the lesson.

Yes/No cards. Simply use index cards and write (or have students to write) Yes on one side and No on the other side in large letters. Ask review questions about the lesson that require only a yes or no answer, and instruct students to hold up the correct answer. This is a quick and easy way to assess students understanding.

Physical Response. This can be a fun way to end a lesson, and students love this! Ask students to do something such as raise both hands or stand up if the answer is_______. For example, if you are studying parts of speech, call out a word and tell students to raise both hands if it is a noun or turn around if it is a verb. This could be done with True and False answers. Call out a question and instruct students to hop one time if the answer is true and turn around if it is false. There are many possibilities to this fun activity. 

Show Me the Card Activity. This is a fun activity similar to the Yes/No cards that can be found FREE in my store. If you are studying there, their, and they're, download this freebie. Call out a sentence (provided in the freebie) and instruct students to hold up the card with the correct spelling. Quickly assess who knows and understands the meanings and spellings of each of these words. This is another activity that students love. Just click the link in the pictures below to get your free set.
Pirate Homophones:  They're, There, and Their

Pirate Homophones:  They're, There, and Their

Exit Slips- Exit slips are a great way to quickly assess students' understanding of a concept. An exit slip is a wonderful tool to use in your classroom at the end of a lesson to help you quickly assess students' understanding of a concept and plan the next steps accordingly. This fun set of exit slips that are found in my store, can be used with almost any subject. Your students will love the variety of these eye-catching exit slips, and you will love the simplicity of having a closure activity for your lessons that will help you assess the progress of your students. To purchase, click the link in the picture below.
Exit Slips to Use with Almost Any Lesson or Subject

No matter which method you use for a quick check for understanding, adding these simple formative assessments to your lessons will help you know what your students are actually learning. 

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

3 Simple Steps to Help Students Build Good Character

We teach about slavery and discrimination in American history.  Sadly, intolerance still exists in today's society. Now it is more important than ever to teach students about building good character and getting along with others.  Learning good values will help children become better citizens and also help build a positive classroom community.  So what can you do to help students build good character?

There are three simple steps to use when helping students build good character.

1.  EDUCATE-  How do you educate children on good character?  Gather mentor texts related to character education.  Read the mentor texts and discuss the character trait(s) that are evident in each book.  Discuss these good character traits and their meanings.  Then brainstorm examples of how they are demonstrated in every day life.  Focus on one trait a week or month.  Click HERE for a free poster with character traits and their meanings.

2.  IDENTIFY- Identify good character traits in students.  If you focus on one character trait at a time, tell students you will be looking for that trait throughout the week or month.  You can have students identify that trait in each other as well.  As you build up good character traits throughout the year, you have two choices.  You can identify all the traits that were accumulated or simply concentrate on the good character trait(s) introduced in that particular story.

3.  ACKNOWLEDGE- It is important to acknowledge good character in students.  Tell students that you notice their efforts and that you are proud of their positive choices.  A little praise goes a long way.  Children will demonstrate more good character traits knowing that you are paying attention.  If you are looking for ways of acknowledging students, read this post called An Easy Way to Build Good Character in the Classroom.

I hope these three simple steps will help you get character education started in your classroom. You are a positive role model and teaching students how to build good character will help them now and in the future.  It will also help your classroom and community come together.  Thank you for being such a positive influence in your students' lives and changing the world!

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