Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fast Pass and Secret Person: How To Stand In Line

Standing in a line is such a huge deal for first graders. Seriously. Like, as important as what superhero is on the backpack. Or what flavor cupcakes to bring to the monthly birthday celebration. Or who to sit by at lunch. Like, that serious.

So when my students are standing in line and not able to function at a first grade level, I've had to come up with tricks. Here is a list of my "Fix-Its":

  • H.A.L.L.S.: At the last school I worked at, we had the acronym HALLS which stands for Hands at your side; All eyes forward; Lips sealed; Low speed; Space. I've carried that with me to my current school. As students are lining up, I say, "Show me HALLS" and then repeat what each one stands for. Most are able to show me HALLS with just saying HALLS. Some still need the reminders.
  • Caboose: To curb some of the "I-don't-want-to-be-in-back" issues, I created a job called "Caboose". The caboose's job is to be at the end of the line. They are also in charge of closing the door as we all leave.
  • Fast Pass: I get much better results focusing on the positive. When I see a student doing a good job, I'll say  "_____, you may have a fast pass." This bumps them to the front of the line behind the line leader. I've been known to give 2-3 fast passes in a row and that usually gets everyone's attention.
  • Secret Person: I tell the students, "I'm looking for a secret person. I will think of someone in our class and if they are able to walk all the way from _____ to _____ with zero noise, and showing HALLS, they will earn 2 points for their team. I will not tell you who the secret person is unless they do a good job. I hope it's you!" It's amazing how well this one works. I've even upped it to 5 points and a clip up for the secret person. If the person who I'm secretly monitoring doesn't live up to the expectations, I don't reveal who it was because the class gets angry at the student (I made this mistake the very first time I did that).
  • Cutting in Line: Cutting, or more commonly known as "He cut me!", is annoying for everyone. So my simple fix it? If you complain about cutting, you go to the end of the line with the person who cut. I don't like tattling, and I don't like dishonesty, so they both deserve to be at the end of the line. 
  • Getting out of Line: If a student gets out of line for whatever reason, they lose their spot. If I ask them to get something for me, they may have their spot back. My reasoning? If you did it right the first time, and remembered your sweater/homework/backpack/lunch, etc., you wouldn't have to do it over again. Next time, remember to get it before you get in line.
  • Running: You run? You walk...to the end of the line. And don't stand there waiting for the line to reach you, either. Not gonna fly with me. You walk to the end of the line. Do it right the first time, and you won't have to waste time doing it over.
If you have any helpful tips/tricks about standing in line, I'd LOVE to hear them and try them out. I'm always looking for fresh ideas to keep my kiddos engaged!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Valentine's Day Revisited (a.k.a. A Confession)

Valentine's Day was well over a week ago. But it's still February and that means we can still have our rooms decorated with cute hearts and teddy bears. I still have quite a bit of chocolate left in my desk, but don't tell anyone. I've even been known to cram a few a mouthful a few mouthfuls in my mouth before walking outside to pick up my kids after lunch. "Whaaaaat? I smell like M&M's? Oh you kids are too funny!"

For our math time on Valetine's Day, we graphed our conversation hearts. I realized then that my copy was quite simple. I remember making it on a whim several years ago. On the day of the big day this year, I was a little embarrassed about it. This could be why I'm just NOW writing about Valentine's Day? I took pictures anyway and today it was my focus for a new product in my store. I just couldn't see myself using that hand-drawn paper ever again!
Click the picture above for a free download!

So I may be a little late getting this to my readers, but better late, than never, right? And since I'm so late getting it out, I decided to make it even sweeter, by making it FREE!

Here are my embarrassing photos:

I'm also happy to report, that I was invited to guest blog on Mercedes' blog Surfing To Success. She has some great upper grades ideas over there as well as a HILARIOUS story and linky. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Harvest of the Month

My school is participating in the "Harvest of the Month". Basically, the district sends us a fruit or vegetable that is in season each month. We also receive information about the farm that sent it to us. Today was the first month. We received enough mandarin oranges for each student to have one. We ate them at snack.

I told the kids when they peeled it, to feel it, smell it, and then slowly taste it...because we'd be writing about it. What I didn't tell them, was how we would be writing about it.

When the students got back in, they each got their iPad. I had them open up the "Drawing Pad" app. They each then drew the mandarin orange they had eaten, along with a slice of it. I had them include the white part too! After that, we described the orange by the way it looked, felt, smelled, and tasted. I had them write that on their iPad too. They LOVED it!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Team Building Activity

So my students are probably getting sick of hearing my voice. I'm just guessing. What's the clue? I'm sick of hearing my voice.

I don't know if it's the recent warm weather, the amount of days we've been together, or it's just the normal course of the school year, but I'm tired of tattling, arguing, lack of respect, and lack of team work.

I borrowed several books from the school library to address these issues, and slowly but surely some of them (I hope) are waking up. I changed a few of their seats today, in hopes of calming the issues, and I think it slightly helped. But that doesn't change the fact that they need to work together as a team. In my class, some kids think that their team is their friend on the other side of the room, others think they are a team of one, and a few think they are on my team.

What sparked the activity I'm going to share with you today, was a story about a bundle of sticks. In the story, a teacher asked her students to paint a mural. The kids spent the entire time arguing about what should be on the mural. When the teacher returned, seeing nothing had been accomplished, she asked each of them to pick up a stick. She had one student break his stick. She asked if it was easy to break the stick. He replied yes. She then tied all the sticks together in a large bundle and asked him to break the bundle. When he couldn't, she told them they were like the sticks...together they are strong. She walked away, and when she returned, they had painted a mural of the bundle of sticks.

So today I gave the kids a short activity to see if they could actually act as a team. I had them get out their dry erase boards and turn them upside down. I showed them a series of numbers in the shape of a pyramid on the Promethean Board.
I then gave them 30 seconds to study the numbers. After the 30 seconds, I turned off the screen and had them turn over their dry erase boards. They wrote down the numbers in the correct order as best as they could. 

Next, I turned the screen back on for 15 seconds and had them check their work.  I turned off the screen and asked them to erase their board and turn it back over upside down. They were then instructed to talk to their partner to create a strategy of how together they could get all the numbers correct and in the correct order.

I overheard one student say, "I'll copy you!" And then like wildfire, that was everyone's "strategy". I reminded them that copying isn't going to make the numbers magically appear correct on their dry erase boards. They were all out of ideas. I was shocked. But, I was curious how this would play out.

I repeated the 30 seconds of studying, followed by one minute of writing. They got farther this time, but not by much. I asked them which was easier, working alone, or working with a partner. They all agreed working with a partner.

After that round, I had them talk in their team (of four) to come up with a strategy to make it happen. I put up a new set of numbers, and miraculously, several teams were able to accomplish the task successfully.

If even for a few minutes, I feel that I was able to have my students work together as a team. I was happy. An hour later, I was once again tired of my own voice. *Le Sigh*

Friday, February 8, 2013

Make it Rain in Your Classroom!

My students are studying weather this unit. Since it's been relatively dry these past few weeks, our weather caterpillar pretty much displays sunny days. What kind of winter is this?! Oh, that's right. I live in California...annnnnd I shouldn't brag.

Anywhoooo....so since it hasn't been windy, or more importantly, rainy, I decided to bring the rain indoors. That's right. We made it rain in my classroom. My kids were incredulous too.

We started by doing a "rain song". We start by rubbing our hands together to make the sound of the wind. Then we "clap" using one finger, then move up to two, and so forth until we are fully clapping. Then we pounded our laps, and then our feet on the floor (I highly recommend this in a portable classroom) for the loud thunder. We then moved back down until we were rubbing our hands together again. The kids loved it and I told them it will help to make the rain appear in our room.

I then showed them a picture of the rain cycle and we talked about how rain is made. And then...the rain came.

To make it rain, I used my electric tea kettle and filled it up halfway with water. In about 3 minutes, I had a nice whistle going. I held the plastic cup (it's just the top to the science kit) over the steam. The pink bucket was to catch the rain. I had to be very careful not to give myself a steam burn (which is easy to do). I think next year, I'll bring some tongs to hold the cup. Within another 3 minutes, we had quite the condensation happening!

As the condensation slowly fills the cup, the kids can see what each item represents:
kettle = ocean
water vapor = evaporation
clear plastic cup = cloud
condensation = rain (precipitation) 
pink bucket = lake/river/stream 

We then drew the water cycle and labeled it. 

At the end of the day, we wrote in our Room News that we made it rain in our classroom! I think this is an excellent conversation starter for home communications.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fun Kid Math

Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that come up unexpectedly. Yesterday I had the pleasure of experiencing one. 

The students were joking around during a math lesson about subtraction and one kid jokingly asked, "How much is half of Austin?" 
"Oh, that's easy!" I said, "It's Alexis!"
"Wait, what?" asked my student as Alexis' ears perked up. 
"OH I GET IT!" shouted another.

Each student in my classroom has a number. It makes life so much easier and I'm sure many of you have the same system. Therefore, just use the students' names instead of numbers to make it more fun! As an added bonus, I had them do this for points for their groups. They ware all given a list of names earlier in the day (for Valentine's Day), and I told them to get it out to use if they needed to.

I made it harder too by having addition of three digits. The kids LOVED it! I plan on adding this to my board math. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Task Cards

Okay, so task cards are new to me. I've seen them posted for the people I follow, but never really checked them out. Today I was hanging out with a friend who showed me some she uses in her classroom. All I could think of was BRILLIANT!!!

If you aren't familiar with how these work, there are enough cards for each student desk. You place one on each desk. Students then walk about the room answering the questions (or tasks) on their answer sheet.

Seriously brilliant! My friend says you can use these not just as an activity during language arts time, but as a finish early task as well. Or she has some that she put on an O ring and flips through them to have the kids answer as they walk out the door. Another brilliant idea!

I'm thinking, you could use them as a PowerPoint warm up on the Promethean Board, or as part of board language. If you cut them out then laminate them, they'll last even longer! I made these tonight and I can't wait to try these out in the next few weeks! Check them out by clicking on the picture below.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

100th Day

I am officially 100 days smarter. Yesterday was our 100th day of school. I've learned so many new things at my school that I couldn't possibly list them all here. But, I will let you know what we did in our classroom:

One cute resource for the 100th day is a short video on Starfall.com. The kids recognized it, and I liked that it was short! Another video they watched was "Emily's 100 Days of School" (note: the link takes you to a 30 second youtube video). It is based on the Ruby and Max characters. The 20 minute video bought me some precious bubbling in of bubble sheets. I liked listening to it though! The kids were awfully respectful and watched the whole thing without complaining! 

My kiddos created these cute hats using construction paper. Before stapling them together, we drew 100 small pictures on them and decorated them with a sticker and markers. It was a nice activity because it also gave them a lesson on following directions. I only had one kid cut too far and chop off the round part. Usually there are three or four!

We also used a 100 chart to make 100. It's fun because I call off numbers, color them in, and the kids have no clue as to why they are coloring the numbers they are coloring! It took them a LONG time this year to figure it out. I was sneaky. I had them color squares on opposite sides and didn't close the tops of the digits together until the very end. Hilarious!!!