Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Getting Ready for Back to School at the End of the Year


If you're anything like me, you have a million things going on right now as you start to wrap up the school year...But if you're also like me, a tiny little voice in your head (okay, mine is more like the Allstate Insurance man) is urging you to start preparing for Back to School, 'cause having been through a few summers, I know what's coming, and the new school year will be here before you know it.

Before I detail all of the things you could do to get ready for Back to School, let me tell you to feel free to do one or two, all or none of these things. If you are feeling like one more thing may push you over the edge, then it's worth it to just focus on getting through the year and knowing that you can come back in the summer or right before school starts to get things done. Totally up to you of course!

But, if you've got the energy and you'd like to get some things done so your to do list is shorter when you come back, here are some ideas of things you can do to get ready? Of course what you actually do varies from classroom to classroom, but here is my list of the top ten things I like to tackle before I walk out my classroom door for summer break:

1. Write Lesson Plans for the First Week
This is a great time to get out your new planner and pencil in those icebreakers, getting to know you activities, procedural training talks, and of course the first few lessons of reading, writing, math and more. Just setting these down on paper, helps relieve some of the stress of not knowing exactly what you're going to do during the first few crucial days of instruction.

2. Copy and Prepare Everything You'll Need for the First Week
Once I have my lesson plans, I figure out what we'll need and I make copies now, before the mad rush to the copier happens a few days before school starts. As soon as they're copied, I stack the papers and put them into my teacher cubbies to keep everything straight.



3. Put Up Any Bulletin Boards That You Can
Even though our custodians clean for the summer, they leave all of the walls alone. This makes it easy to staple colorful paper and borders to the walls and add any lettering that's needed. Once this foundational part of the bulletin board is done, it's ready for the kids to add their artwork or projects later on. If you can't put them up now, you could at least plan whatever bulletin boards you'll be using and what will eventually go on them.

4. Prepare Take Home Packets for the First Week
Our office sends a boatload of papers home on the first day, but there are also a few informational forms that I send home each year. Once I do a quick edit for the correct school year and grade (I'm usually 4th/5th but sometimes only 4th or 5th), I really like getting my papers copied and ready to go. 

5. Copy Handouts for Back to School Night
Every school handles this differently, but my school has a special night for Back to School. It takes place a few days after school starts and is for parents only. At Back to School Night, Teachers give a short presentation of what types of things they'll be doing for the year and also go over class expectations and so on. I love to copy the Back to School Night forms ahead of time, so when the craziness of a new school year starts, I'm much more able to keep my cool. I've written about some Back to School Night tips on my blog and I actually have a freebie at my TpT store of the main handout that I use for Back to School Night. It's totally editable, so you can personalize it to suit your needs. 

6. Copy Year Long Units When Possible
Okay, so here I am copying again. I do so love to have big units printed out and ready to go though. Things like vocabulary, handwriting pages, Grammar by the Month, and morning work are great to have on hand. The only trouble I've found is finding a place to put it all, but it is so worth the storage challenges to know that I won't have to run to the copier each week for these ongoing types of materials. 

7. Make a Shopping List for Classroom Supplies
While you are actually in your classroom physically, it's so much easier to remember all of the little things we need to replenish before the little ones come rushing in. Think about what you need personally, as a teacher, as well as what your students will need each day.

8. Order Any School Supplies Your School Site Allows
I know each school does this a little differently. I've been at schools where the parents purchased all of the school supplies and I've also been at schools where everything was provided for the kids. Our school has a combination approach, where we purchase a number of things and then ask parents for donations for the rest. So...I do make sure to get in on the ordering by sending my list to our wonderful secretary (wonderful secretaries run the school, don't they?).

9. Get Your Whiteboards From Home Depot/Lowe's
If I had to pick one of the most useful items in my classroom, it would have to be my whiteboards. Every summer, I make the trek to Home Depot and get a huge piece of white shower-board, which they cut into 12 x 12 inch pieces for me. For about $14, I have a great set of whiteboards for the entire class. These work really well (as long as you stay away from red marker) and last the whole year. Besides whiteboards, I cut a carpet sample piece for each child too, and we use these as erasers. 



10. Make a Preliminary Schedule of Next Year's Units
Taking this year's lesson plan book and tweaking it where necessary, I like to make a month by month game plan for the next school year. Of course I don't put everything in it, but I like to jot down the major units or concepts we'll be working on and approximately which time of the year we'll be working on them. I know that nothing is set in stone, but this year at a glance gives me a sense of direction and serves as a framework for all of the specific activities and day to day lessons that I can add to my lesson plan book later on.

I know that that getting ready for the end of the year now is hard work, but what a great feeling you'll have when these things are checked off of your to do list this summer! 

Need some end of the year resources to help you finish the year positively?

Awards: 52 Editable Awards    40 Editable Awards

Memory Books: Tales of a 3rd Grader    Tales of a 4th Grader   Tales of a 5th Grader

Week Long Thematic Units: Beach Club   Summer Safari   Art Adventure

End of the Year Activities: Set 1   Set 2   Bundle   Time Capsule   Literacy Set

Hang in there and have a great end of the year!


Let's Connect:


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Orange You Glad It's Summer?

Hi! It's Kelly from Teaching Fourth. I know that for some of you, your school year ended last week, but at our school, we have one more week to go. I must say, I'm ready for summer! Since it is the last week, I wanted to get a little gift for my sweet teaching friends just to let them know how much I appreciate them. After seeing several examples floating around Pinterest, I decided to create my own "Orange You Glad It's Summer" baskets. I simply gathered several orange items (gum, candy, dishcloth, candle, magazine, etc.) and placed them in an orange basket. It is so easy to put together. Just have fun gathering items that fit the orange theme!

 
 
If you would like to create a gift basket for your teaching friends, your child's teacher, etc., I have included a link to some free gift tags. Just click here to download them.
 
 
Enjoy!

 



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Advertising Techniques: A Project

Hello!  It's Deb Hanson from Crafting Connections today, and I am going to share my all-time favorite end-of-year fifth grade ELA project... an advertising technique project!

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

I started doing this project a few years ago.  It was May and state testing was complete (yeah!), but students were still finishing up their MAP testing.  I was struggling to decide what to do during language arts once testing was 100% complete... I wanted to do something new and fun that would keep them engaged during the last few weeks of school, but I was struggling to come up with an idea to do that.

As I was walking around, proctoring the test session, I noticed that some fifth graders were being given questions about advertising techniques.  The multiple choice questions contained specialized vocabulary like bandwagon, testimonial, and glittering generality.  Aha!  I had found my final ELA unit!

My first step in planning this unit was determining the vocabulary I wanted my students to learn.  Based on the available time we had before the school year ended (along with Field Day, the 5th grade trip to the middle school, etc.), I chose five terms: bandwagon, testimonial, name calling, glittering generality, and repetition.  (The next year I had a few additional days, so I included slogan, snob appeal, and transfer.)

Next, I paged through several magazines, searching for examples of each type of advertising technique I had identified.


Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

Finally, I prepared my rubric... more on that in a second!

We covered one advertising technique each day.  I started with bandwagon.  After defining it, I used the document camera to show them the examples I had found in magazines, and we talked about the specific wording on each advertisement that could be classified as using bandwagon propaganda.

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

After that discussion on the first day, I told them about the project they would be creating.  For the next five days, we would be learning about different types of propaganda (advertising techniques).  Each day, following the discussion, they would get to show their understanding of the term by creating their own advertisement that used the technique on a half-sheet of paper.  I showed them by own example, along with the rubric that I would be using to grade their final project.
Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.
This is my quick example I showed my students.

For each advertisement, they had to show that they understood the concept by writing the technique across the top, a definition, and then preparing their advertisement below.  As you can see, they were also awarded points for effort.  Click on the image to download this rubric.
Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.
Border by Kelly Benefield.

My students loved this project, and I enjoyed watching them tap into their creativity.  They were SO proud of their finished projects!
Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.
Name calling advertisement

Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.
This student was extremely proud of his testimonial advertisement!


Advertising Techniques: A project idea for upper elementary and middle school students. Students define each advertising technique and then make their own sample advertisement to demonstrate their understanding of the concept! Blog post includes a free rubric.

If you want to hop over to my personal blog, I have a giveaway going on that you may want to enter. Simply click on the link below!  Thanks for stopping by today!
  



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Problem Solving Discussion Groups

One thing I have been working on all year with my students is productive group work and discourse.  Whether we are talking about our read aloud, brainstorming about a topic, or sharing our reflections in a book club, we are working hard to be productive group members.  What does this look like?

We have talked about piggybacking off the ideas of others.  We have talked about asking other people's opinions.  We have practiced disagreeing "agreeably".  We have even working on asking for clarification of ideas.  Pretty important stuff, right?  We have done a great deal of this in the context of book discussions, but we have also done a great deal of this during math class.  Today I thought I'd share what this might look like--especially if you haven't done a whole lot of this yet.

Here's how I got started.  First of all, I do a TON of problem solving in my classroom--both individually and in teams.  I started to do more and more of them as warm ups where students would work a while on a problem they had glued into their notebooks.  After they had worked independently for a while, I partnered them up to discuss what they had done to that point and where they would go next.  I thought I'd snap a few pictures of one day when we did this process.

As they started working with their problem solving partners,we practiced using phrases like, "I knew ____ so I did ____" and "What do you think about..." and 'I agree with you but..." to really get them talking about the problem and solution strategies.  I let these partnerships work a little longer on the problem so they made a little more progress.  While they worked, I walked around and coached--both on the problem solving itself AND on the partner work and discussion.
After a while, I put two partnerships together to make a quad.  The two partnerships then shared out their strategies and ideas and asked questions of the other members.  It was amazing to see how many different approaches the partnerships took.  Similarly, it was great for the students to have to really listen to their group to hear, acknowledge, and understand their methodology.  Sometimes we need to stop our groups and remind ourselves of some more discussion stems...

"Could you explain that one more time?"
"Why did you do..."
"Are you sure that..."

 We then met back as a whole class to share some of our strategies under the document camera and to reflect on how our groups went.  Talking about math is VERY different than talking about literature...there aren't a lot of opinions in math!  I loved hearing some of the comments that show that they have been listening to me at least a little!

"That works, but it isn't very efficient."
"I didn't get it before but ____ explained it and now I do!"
"There is another way that would be even easier."
"This is a lot like the problem we did...."

My students are getting pretty good at this process...to the point where I can be much more of an observer than a coach.  I have even started doing this in small groups--especially for enrichment!  These "math smart" students are NOT always the best at listening productively to other ideas!
This problem is from my "Perseverance Problems" resource...click here to see it in my store.

Interested in give this a try?  Here's a freebie with some discussion "stems" that you could use with your students.

Need good word problems for your class?  I am ADDICTED to writing word problems!  I have seasonal problems, topic centered problems, "Amazing Fact" problems, and more!  If you CLICK HERE, you can see my many word problem resources in my store--most of which have a built in differentiation component.  I've even thrown a few of them on sale for you...check out these to get you through the end of the year!


Thanks for stopping by-and have a wonderful end to your weekend!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

End of Year Research Report: Animals!

It's that time of year when some students think school is almost over, so it's time for fun and games every day.  I see where they can get this idea... We recently had field day, our ice-cream multiplication party, our end of year parent picnic, and field day.  We also just finished our science book and social studies book - - - so now what?! Movies? NOPE!  Time for some PROJECTS!!  

Around this time of year, I start my animal research reports with my students.  It takes them about 2 weeks of afternoons here and there to complete this project, and they absolutely LOVE IT!  I'd like to share with you how I organize this.

  • First, I give each student a manila folder to hold all their information.  A regular folder will do.


  • Second, I start collecting articles about the animal students chose.  I know some teachers let their students search online, but I'm old school on this.  I will google it - and print it for them.  I like to see them read the papers and mark on the papers.  Having a hard copy also always my whole class to work at the same time (I don't have enough computers).  I usually start with Kids National Geographic and then google the terms "(Animal Name) facts for kids".  

Sometimes the website will have a printer friendly link, but most of the time the website does not.  If this is the case, I simply copy and paste what information I want onto a word document.  I make sure to add the link, so students can cite the source.

  • Third, students start collecting facts from their articles.  I have a template that I have been using for 5 years now.  It is broken down into the following sections:
  1. Introduction
  2. Appearance
  3. Habitat
  4. Diet
  5. Parenting
  6. Survival
  7. Special Features

 

  • The fourth step is having students write one paragraph for each section.  When they are done, they can't believe how beautiful it looks.  Even your struggling writers will successfully have a multi-paragraph report.  

  • This last step is a bonus - I teach my students how to make a power point presentation using their notes.  These students will have the option to present using their power points instead of just reading from their research report.  


There you have it!  A fun project to keep students learning :)  



Sunday, May 10, 2015

6 End of the Year Candy Bar Gifts

Is the end of the school year really near?  Finally, this year is over!  Which one can you relate to?

I’m always looking for inexpensive gifts to give to my students at the end of the year.   I don’t make it a habit to give my students candy, but at the end of the year I do justify it. :)

I created candy gifts for my students.  Since they are candy, they are a hit!


There are six different tags that to chose from:
  1. Hope you have MOUNDS of fun this summer!
  2. Have a WHOPPER of a good summer!
  3. We have had a SNICKERS of a good year!
  4. I MINT to tell you how glad I was to be your teacher!
  5. This school year would have fallen to PIECES without you!
  6. There are a million REESES why I’m glad you were my student!


You can download these tags for free HERE.

Happy end of the year teaching friends!





Saturday, May 2, 2015

How to Survive Until the Last Day of School

The last day of school is approaching! Here are some end of year survival tips that will keep you sane.  Read about end of year activities, tips, and ideas. (I love all the free games)


You finally made it to state testing! Your kids are ready, or as ready as they are going to be, to spend an entire week or two showing the world everything you taught them this year.  Everyone, including you, has worked so hard this year, and now that you have made it to the BIG state test, it is finally over....right?  WRONG!  

Yes, testing time is over, and there is a great feeling of relief, but the year is far from really being over.  In fact, this may just be the toughest part of the year.  If you are not prepared, these last few weeks of school can be brutal.  

Here are a few important tips that are sure to help you survive until the last day of school.

The last day of school is approaching! Here are some end of year survival tips that will keep you sane.  Read about end of year activities, tips, and ideas. (I love all the free games)

Planning is my first tip because it is SO important!  As teachers, we are programmed to plan out everything. However, this is the time of year where it is tempting to relax on your planning and "wing it".  Having every lesson, activity, or project planned and ready to go is critical, even more than before, because this will prevent behavior issues.  Students can sense when you are not ready, or if there is some unplanned time.  While you are searching for materials, and deciding what you want to do next, your students are probably finding their own "activities" to participate in.  


The last day of school is approaching! Here are some end of year survival tips that will keep you sane.  Read about end of year activities, tips, and ideas. (I love all the free games)

Another tempting thing to do at this point in the school year is to "stop learning".  What!!??  Stop learning?  Aren't we in school?  Just because state testing is over, doesn't mean the learning is over.  Of course WE know that, but the students have to know that too!  If your students get the impression that they are done learning because they are done testing, you can expect to spend a majority of your time correcting behavior.  If you keep the spirit of learning going, even after testing, your students will understand that your expectations for them haven't changed.  


The last day of school is approaching! Here are some end of year survival tips that will keep you sane.  Read about end of year activities, tips, and ideas. (I love all the free games)

While planning and learning are so important to a successful end of year, so is change!  You have probably spent your entire school year sticking with the same routine.  It has been working great for you, but now is when your students need something different. Instead of having a structured reading block with lessons and small group instruction, try conducting a research project.  Instead of having a structured math block, try playing some new math games or incorporate a real-world math project.  

Here are a few things you can do to change up your routine at the end of the year while still keeping it educational.  Click on each picture to learn more...








These five partner plays are intended to be used
as fluency-building activities that students
can do with a partner. They each contain an
end-of-the-school-year theme. 
The last day of school is approaching! Here are some end of year survival tips that will keep you sane.  Read about end of year activities, tips, and ideas. (I love all the free games)

Throughout my years of teaching, I have learned the power of being positive.  You will always get a much better response from your students when using positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement.  This is even more true at the end of the school year.  For example, while my students are working in research groups, it is very easy for things to get out of control.  I make a point of walking around the room, and complimenting groups that are working well together.  Once I start pointing out the positive things that I see, all of my groups are trying to do the same.  I use this behavior management strategy for EVERYTHING, and it works EVERY TIME!


Please feel free to share your favorite tip for making it to the last day of school without losing it.

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