Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teaching Kindness

The beginning of the year is full of routines and procedures. I also use this time of year to set a tone of kindness and respect in my classroom. On the first day of school I read Have You Filled A BucketToday? 

This is an amazing book that teaches kids how treating others affects how others treat them. Then I explained a system I have in class to help them fill each other's buckets. Every time one of the kids does or says something nice for someone else in the class, I place a cotton ball in the bucket. It's the size of the Target dollar bin buckets. (Sorry, forgot to take a pic!) You can really use any size according to how fast you want the bucket filled.

They can also earn cotton balls if my bucket is filled when others compliment them or they go out of their way to do something nice. Once the bucket is overflowing with cotton balls, they can vote on a class celebration. A couple of celebrations from last year were a junk food party and a game party. The parties only lasted about an hour so they fit into our very busy schedule. This really helped us celebrate being kind to one another and becoming more aware of our actions. 

A new activity I did this year was centered around making the kids aware that once they say something they can't take it back. I passed out a heart to each student and had them decorate it. Then I read the book Chrysanthemum which is about a character that gets teased for her name, by other classmates.

As I read, I had the kids put wrinkles into their heart every time someone said something mean to Chrysanthemum. After I finished reading the book, I told them to put their heart back to the way it was when I gave it to them- without wrinkles. I sat and watched as they said things like, "But it's never going to be like the way it was." Then I explained that words do this to our hearts. When we say something, we can't take it back. We can apologize but they will still leave a mark on our hearts. I loved seeing their understanding of this topic. We had a great conversation and then they glued their hearts to the chart titled, "Our words leave a lasting mark." 

What kinds of things do you do to teach about kindness in the classroom? I'd love to hear how others teach this very important topic. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Meet the Teacher Night

Whew! What a crazy first week back for teachers! My school admin rocks and let us spend most of our time in the rooms working. Love them! I am very exhausted but can't shut my brain off. Thursday was our meet the teacher night. We call it Meat and Greet because we serve hamburgers and hot dogs. I had heard sweet things about some of my kiddos for this year so was looking forward to meeting them. This is the only open house we have as a school and it is very informal. There is no presentation in my class since families pop in at various times between 6-8. My set up was very simple this year. I didn't want it to be overwhelming for the families or myself. When the families walk in, they sign in, fill in their child's form of transportation and pick a day that is best for conferences. 

While the parents were signing in and filling out the forms, I talked with the kids and had them pick out some books to take home. They were leveled readers that I no longer use and figured they would be great to send home. (Forgot to take a pic of it.) After chatting with the families a bit, I gave them a packet with my parent handbook, supply list, the first book order, our district's attendance policy and my contact info card which is magnetic.

My teammate was going to send home book orders that night and I thought it was a great idea! Sometimes I wonder if the parents ever see them and this was a great way to make sure they do. I typed up a little letter to attach to it. If you'd like it, just click on the picture. You just need to fill in the code for your classroom and sign your name. 

Once they were getting ready to leave, I gave them a bag of popcorn with the label Thanks for Poppin In!. My hope is that they go home and talk about the night while having a little treat. 

Some of the kids took a look around the room but there was nothing on the student desks yet. They will be choosing their seat on the first day. This is the first time I have let them do that so we will see. (Am I crazy?) Of course I am totally ready to move them around when needed and will be making sure they know that!

That's about it for meet the teacher night. We are really blessed that Friday and Monday are work days because now I can just focus on planning with my team before school starts on Tuesday. 

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

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Soaring Sentences!

One of the first things we practice in writing every year is writing sentences. I don't know about you but this is always an ongoing battle in my class. The kids need practice, practice and more practice. A couple of years ago I created some activities to supplement my teaching of this topic. I just redid the whole file because quite frankly, it needed a makeover.

The activities I use come from my file Soaring Sentences. 

Here's a bit about how I use these activities. We start with subjects and predicates. There is a poster for each of those topics. You can also create an anchor chart for whole group reference and use the posters for a center or small groups. There is also a worksheet that you can use for individual assessment. 

I didn't include an activity for subjects and predicates because the kids come up with their own for a fun activity. One half of the kids have to write a subject and the other half a predicate. Then they have to match up the subjects and predicates to create sentences. I then write, what will surely be hysterical sentences, on a chart. 

When we are ready to move on to complete sentences, I use the complete and incomplete sentence sort activity. I give each table team the sort and they have to work on it together. There is a text answer key which can be copied on the back of the sort cards themselves. There is also a QR code answer key. You can easily make this a center instead and include the posters for reference in the center. There are two worksheets that cover the topic of complete sentences and can be used for assessment.

When they write complete sentences, punctuation is also important so I have an activity and worksheet for that as well. I give each table team the activity to work on together and we review as a class. There is also a text and QR answer key for this activity.

Some standards require students to know the 4 types of sentences so I included a bingo game to practice that in a fun way.

You can check out the complete file here. And it will be 28% off during TpT's Blast Off Back to School Sale Monday and Tuesday. I officially go back to school next week and will post pics of my classroom progress throughout the week on instagram so make sure to follow me! Have a great weekend!