Classroom Solutions > 236 posts categorized "Activities"

Connecting Children With Nature: Learning About Trees

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Our playground is surrounded by an abundance of beautiful trees, which always seem to captivate my very curious kindergartners. Who would have guessed that a group of five- and six-year-olds would find trees more intriguing than slides and swings? Read on as I share the lessons I created to capitalize on my students' natural enthusiasm for trees.

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October Read-Alouds: Literacy Fun With Pumpkins, Leaves, and Bats

Pumpkin patch Depending on where you live, you may have recently noticed a chill in the air, and the leaves may be turning from green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. While many of your students may be focusing on how much candy they will receive trick-or-treating at the end of month, here are three of my favorite read-aloud books with accompanying activities that won’t require a trip to the dentist.

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Beware of Bias -- Graphing With a Critical Eye


Calories Tricky GraphMy students studied graphing during our first math unit this year. Graphing lends itself to get-to-know-you activities — students can survey each other to collect data — and it provides an entry point for students of all math abilities.

Once my students understood how graphs work and how to create accurate graphs, I started to wonder how I could up the ante. How could I promote critical thinking with this relatively straightforward math unit? 

One of my students handed me the answer when he brought in a graph that he had clipped from the newspaper to add to our graph collection. As I looked over his graph, I thought, "Hey, wait a sec! This graph is downright misleading." As I pointed out the graph’s flaws to my students, their eyes widened at the idea that a newspaper might seek to mislead with a graph.

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The Challenge Based Classroom: Using Curriculum to Serve the Community

HabitatLast year I came to a crossroads in my teaching. During my annual review, I found myself agonizing over my goals for this upcoming school year. I was completely stuck. I browsed through our district's professional development opportunities with a sense of “been there, done that.” It surprised me that so early in my career I would feel this way. My classroom certainly kept me on my toes, but I was missing that spark that ignited my planning each year. An offer to explore curriculum development made me even more confused. Was I really ready to leave the classroom? I needed a teaching makeover!

As if on cue, two amazing things happened that would transform my teaching: the opportunity to be a teacher advisor here and the discovery of Apple’s Challenge Based Learning. The journey outside of my comfort zone had begun.  

 

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Helping Students Develop a Lifelong Love of Reading

 

Love 2 read We all know that reading is one of the most important skills you can teach a child. It lays the foundation for a child’s success in school and in everyday life. For this reason, one of the most precious gifts we can give our students is a book. Books stir the senses, inspire imagination, and spark a love of reading that will last a lifetime. But how can a book compete in this new age of instant entertainment — with such things as television and video games? Read on as I share ideas to help your students develop a lifelong love of reading despite these distractions.

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Art and Poetry Through the Year: Notebooks and Keepsakes for Your Students

How Do You Do

Students in 1st grade need to have many experiences in language arts to become independent readers and writers. Shared reading is a great way for students to “play” with language to become fluent readers. Fluency is further developed when children have ample opportunities to read text that is familiar and easy for them. In my class, we love to use poetry to build our fluency. Read on to find out more about our poetry notebooks and our yearlong poetry keepsake project.

 

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Motivating the Unmotivated: Tough Kid Tools That Really Work

Toolbox At some point in your teaching career you will have a "tough kid" in your classroom. You may even have several at the same time. These students send you home exhausted, often in tears, and raise doubts about your career choice. The tough kid changes the dynamic and mood of the room in an instant, and you may find yourself wondering what to expect from minute to minute. The tough kid may come to you with a prior history, with warnings from your colleagues, and with a cornucopia of labels such as "at-risk," "difficult," "attention deficit disorded," or even "lazy." How do you deal with tough kids, and what can you do to restore order to your classroom? Read on for the top five ways to motivate the seemingly unmotivated. 

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Five Tips for Creating the Problem-Free Group Project

Group1Assigning group work can be very frustrating. Reflecting back on my first year, I'm amazed at how out-of-control and unorganized my group projects were. I'm sure when the principal walked by my room, my class looked very chaotic. My students didn't understand my directions, the target was not clear, my expectations were off, and I wasn't sure how to grade them. But I took good notes on what worked and what didn't, and I did better the next year.

Though issues will arise with group projects, I continue to do them because the benefits are so great. Group work provides another form of assessment and takes students to a higher level of thinking. Students also learn to work on a team, an ability they will need in today's world. I've learned so much about myself and my students since I began group work. In this post, I'll share some of these things, along with five tips for creating a problem-free group project.

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Comments: 1

How to Serve a Nutritious Morning Meeting

DSC_0364Starting the school day off with Morning Meeting will get your students ready to learn from the moment they walk into your classroom. It is a great way to build classroom community and teach a variety of academic and social skills. Read on as I share a recipe to help you serve a nutritious Morning Meeting of your own!

 

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Comments: 2

Extra, Extra, Read All About It! Current Events in the Classroom

Reading News on the SubwayOne of my personal goals this year is to read the newspaper every single day, regardless of how many student essays I need to read or how crazy my morning commute. I want to be aware of the world around me, and I am committed to living a more news-literate life. I bought a newspaper subscription for my Kindle, and at the very least, I am going to read the news while I take the subway to and from school.

While working on myself, I also consider my students’ current events literacy. I want to help my students to become informed young citizens and lifelong news readers. However, finding time for current events during our jam-packed school day has always posed a challenge. In this post, I'll share some of the solutions I've found. However, my current events curriculum is very much a work in progress, so I would love to hear how you cover world events in your classroom. 

Photo: One of my students reading a newspaper on the subway during a field trip. I need to learn from her!

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Hands-On Geography: "Paint a Partner" Topographic Maps

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"Where in the world is Randolph, NY? Is that near New York City?"

I smile every time I hear that question because our little corner of Western New York is nowhere near — and geographically nothing like — the big city. Modern technologies such as Google Earth show students the world through a whole new lens and offer exciting opportunities for them to improve their geography. But unfortunately most of my students still can't identify basic geologic formations on a topographic map: they're far more used to the flat, traditional maps they see online. For teaching topographic maps, modern technology just won't cut it.

Instead, I take an old-fashioned, hands-on approach that gives my students a solid understanding of how topographic maps work. Read on to turn your students into expert cartographers using their classmates as canvases.

 

 

 

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Comments: 6

Creating a Positive Classroom Climate: "Capturing Kids' Hearts"

"If you have a child's heart, you have his head" - Flip Flippen

DSC00338 On the day I was hired at Randolph Jr/Sr High School as a special education teacher, the principal, Bill Caldwell, informed me that part of my professional development for the year would be to attend a three-day training titled "Capturing Kids' Hearts." The name alone had me hooked, and to hear him speak so passionately made me extremely eager to find out more about it. However, he didn't divulge any more information, other than to bring a personal item that held meaning for me and a lot of Kleenex. Little did I know that the magnitude of those three days would continue on in my teaching years later.

 

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Comments: 4

Developing Hopes and Dreams

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The goal of every teacher is to help students reach their fullest potential. Teaching students to develop their hopes and dreams for the new school year is a key skill for achievement. It helps them make the connection between their personal choices and the end results. Read on for ideas on how to encourage this important skill.

 

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Three Classroom Activities to Celebrate Banned Books Week

Bbw11poster In the movie Field of Dreams, there is a scene at a school board meeting where PTO members are attempting to ban a book: The Boat Rocker by Terrence Mann. This scene is not far from reality. According to Banned Books Week.org, 348 books were challenged by various groups last year. As an English teacher, I see value in teaching literature. As a parent, I see value in censoring certain material for particular age groups. It is important that teachers select appropriate materials, but let's face it: Our students see many things that are far from appropriate. It is our responsibility also to teach life lessons to the best of our ability, though we have to be careful about how much we allow. As teachers, we must learn from the community and use our best judgment in the materials we select. With that said, September 24 - October 1 is Banned Books Week. I've created three activities to explore the concept of censorship, book bans, and specific titles that have been challenged or banned by particular groups.

 

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Poetic Beginnings: Four Poetry Lessons to Get to Know Your Students

Amys PoemMany curriculum guides would have us believe that poetry and April are conjoined twins, never to be parted, but we teachers know better. Poetry is powerful stuff, and cramming it into a single month is unfair to our students and to poetry! In my class, we read, write, and publish poetry throughout the year, and I frontload the first two months of school with even more poetry. We gain deep insights about each other while sharing our poetry, we luxuriate in words, and we celebrate creative risks –- important back-to-school practices. Here are four of my back-to-school poetry lessons that I use to get to really know my students.

 

Amy shares one of her published poems.

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Comments: 4

Easing the Middle School Transition: "Getting to Know You" Geocaching

225 "Middle School" - Just the words alone can strike fear into the hearts of students and parents alike. Sixth- through eighth-grade teachers will agree these years can be the some of the toughest, and most tumultous, in a child's life. For some, it will mean a chance to advance to a higher-level floor in a familiar building, but for others it might mean acclimating to an entirely different school. While this is a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, it may mean leaving lifelong friendships behind - which can be one of many scary steps to endure. In addition, there seems to be a laundry list of changes that middle-schoolers can expect, such as:

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Simple Ideas for Establishing Classroom Rules and Manners

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What do we want our classroom community to look like? How do we want our classroom community to sound? These two questions begin our group discussion on sharing ideas, making decisions, and solving problems in our classroom. One of the earliest conversations we have focuses on good manners, appropriate voice levels, and classroom rules. This week, I am going to share a few of the books and activities I use to introduce our classroom behavior chart.

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Comments: 6

Celebrating Community Heroes: September 11th in the Elementary Classroom

FDNY Let me be honest with you: Teaching my third graders about September 11th makes me a little uncomfortable. My students weren’t even born in 2001, and this historic tragedy just doesn’t seem all that relevant to their lives. On the other hand, September 11th has become a permanent part of our collective consciousness. As New York City gears up for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, my students are inevitably curious about it. It wouldn’t be fair to my students if I didn’t help them understand 9/11 in a way that honors their intellectual curiosity, yet is appropriate for their age as well. Thank goodness for the picture book Fireboat by Maira Kalman! Here’s how I use this amazing book to discuss the facts about 9/11 and then shift into a lesson about heroes.

 

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Using Five Web-based Tools to Motivate and Engage the 21st Century Writer

KeyboardIn his book, Content Area Writing, Jim Burke wrote that "writing is the most public performance of our intelligence." Writing is a skill that is needed and used regardless of the career our students pursue. People write for many different reasons and audiences.  Writing no longer involves just a pen and paper and through the Internet, the 21st century scribe has the ability to build an audience in seconds. As the media continue to evolve it is important that our students understand that a tweet, an Internet blog post, and a research paper should be written differently. In this post are five web-based tools I have used in my classroom to motivate and engage the 21st Century Writer.

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Tips for Creating Strong Teacher-Parent Relationships

 

 FcEffective communication is essential to create strong teacher-parent relationships and parental involvement. Students need the support of both teachers and parents in order to succeed academically, physically, and emotionally. Read on as I provide you with a few tips to help establish a strong relationship with your most powerful ally: parents.

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Comments: 8

Getting-To-Know-You Activities: The First Week and Beyond

I Love SchoolThe desks are arranged, favorite books are displayed, math manipulatives are sorted, and lesson plans are being written. It’s time to start building the classroom community. As I write my lesson plans, I include getting-to-know-you activities. These activities provide opportunities for the students to interact positively with one another. The children are eager to make new friends, learn about the classroom environment, and become part of a school family. After all, the classroom will become a home away from home for the next ten months.

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Read-Alouds to Launch Reader’s Workshop

Reading_on_Rug During the first few weeks of reader’s workshop, the focus is necessarily on introducing routines, building stamina, and exploring the classroom library. At the same time, I need to immerse my students in the culture of reading by getting lost in good books together. There isn’t a moment to waste in initiating my students into our reading cult! How do I accomplish both goals at the same time? I use picture books that celebrate reading as a springboard into our discussions about reader’s workshop routines and expectations. Read on for my favorite picture books about reading and how I use them to launch our reader’s workshop.


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Ten Years Later: Remembering September 11th With an Oral History Project

Scholasticsept11postOn the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on my way to work in Springfield, Illinois.  Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when terrorists attacked our country 10 years ago this year. My current students, however, may have a difficult time remembering as freshman students were 4 to 5 years old when this significant event changed the course of history. Since I often refer to 9/11 when discussing various pieces of literature, I wanted my students to have a firm understanding of the event, and so created the Remembering September 11th lesson. This lesson is broken into three phases: class discussion, group research, and individual project.

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Comments: 6

Planning for the First Day of Kindergarten

Welcome to school
 
The first day of kindergarten can be both exciting and frightening for students, parents, and the teacher too. There are mixed emotions everywhere as this day marks a huge milestone in the child's life. As teachers, we need to incorporate ideas to help ease first day jitters and start the school year off on the right track. Here are a few tips to help you plan for the first day of kindergarten.

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Comments: 4

Back-to-School Read Alouds: Favorite Books and First Week Activities

DSC00282Reading aloud to children is one of my favorite activities of the day and it is a critical part of literacy instruction. In my classroom, I integrate children’s literature across the curriculum and read to the children throughout the day. The read-aloud books I choose for the first week of school help set the tone for the year and help begin to build our classroom community. These books feature characters about the same age as my students and allow us to discuss prior knowledge, build thinking skills, and make connections. Here are some of my favorite books and activities that engage my enthusiastic young readers.

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Comments: 4

Meet the Teacher: Ideas for a Successful Open House

Screen shot 2011-08-02 at 3.47.01 PMMany schools offer an open house prior to the start of the school year. On this day parents and students come to the school, tour the classroom, visit with friends, and meet the teacher. The furniture is in place, the classroom is organized, and new friends hop, skip, and jump through the classroom door. Ready or not, here they come!

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Comments: 24

My Top Five Tips on How to Celebrate Summer in Style

VacationLike most teachers, I am relishing every moment of summer, but before we know it the days of grading papers and creating dynamic lesson plans will be upon us. Therefore, let's live each day of the next few weeks to the fullest so we can return to our classrooms refreshed and ready to go. Here are my top five ways to celebrate summer. You can use these tips to make the most of your time off and rejuvenate yourself and your teaching as well!

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Comments: 9

To Endings, Transitions, and New Beginnings

Kindergarten End of the Year Summer FunIt’s the end of the school year, and to kick off summer vacation, our classroom became the O.K. (Over Kindergarten) Ranch and Corral. To prepare my students for the long break, I created a calendar of summer bridge activities to give to parents. And to get ready for next year, I got some great advice from some surprise stars.

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Using Film As a Springboard to Writing in the ELA Classroom

DSC01566As an English teacher, I am always looking for new ways to engage students in the writing process. I am continually trying to find and create interesting writing prompts that engage and challenge my students. Two years ago when I was asked to teach a film elective, I was provided with a wonderful opportunity to develop a course that would encourage students to write in new and exciting ways.

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Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 4

Kindergarten Weather Station CenterWhen we study weather in science, our dramatic play center becomes a weather station. With self-made instruments, hands-on experiments, and — as always — plenty of literacy, the weather station inspires the children with a sense of wonder and awe for the natural world.

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Celebrate Writing and Young Authors!

DSC00722Every day in my classroom students spend time writing, either by themselves or with partners. Some students illustrate books while others peer edit or meet with me. Every week, we have Writers Workshop in our classroom, and when a student has a completed book, they present it at Author's Chair. I am pleased to share with you a fun Author's Chair video featuring several of my students. Enjoy!

Giveaway winners announced at the end of this post!

 

 

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Cementing the Year With Jeopardy

Jeopardy Vasicek Categories 2It's near the end of the year. Some of the students are getting squirrelly. You are running out of steam, but this is the time that you need to push your hardest. What to do . . . what to do?

To be honest, right now you are not going to get much new material delivered in a memorable way. Brain research does not support cramming, so I prefer to concentrate on cementing what I have already taught. I do it with several rounds of Jeopardy. In the true spirit of the Kagan teachings, this maximizes student engagement.

 

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End-of-Year Activities for Middle School

MBlow052011_iStock_000002013115BoyReading
It is the end of the year. The last ten weeks go by fast and furious, so how do you keep your students learning when they have spring fever? What do you do with the many half days resulting from testing, picnics, and award ceremonies? Read on to view activities that keep students engaged in learning and celebrate their successes. Included are free student award certificates to print off and use in your classroom.

Photo credit iStockphoto/Maica. 

 

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Comments: 10

Merry Math Ideas for May

Kindergarten Math Make math irresistible with three of my specialty themes popular with young children: a Counting Party, Frogs & Dogs, and The Price Is Right, Kindergarten Edition. Read on to find activity packages that make counting, number recognition, and money skills fun and exciting.

 

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Greek Mythology and Readers Theater

Greek Vasicek Zeus Cake Covering Greek mythology can be very confusing. For one thing, the family tree for the Greek gods makes the family situations on Jerry Springer and The Maury Show look normal and tame. Mythology is not my strong suit, and the end of the year is not necessarily the time to cover topics that you are not completely confident with. So when I stumbled across a Greek mythology readers theater book, I was ecstatic. Read on to find out how to incorporate this activity into your classroom.

Photo: One student made a cake for the "God and Goddess Bake Off" play. This was a great way to celebrate the day!

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Differentiate Your Kindergarten Classroom

Differentiating in KindergartenIt's a fact: every child is unique, and as teachers we know that more than anyone else. So why do we often find ourselves trying to teach every child the same way?

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Comments: 4

Planning for the End of the Year

DSC00606Mother's Day and Father's Day are around the corner, and for some teachers, testing is over.  You're working on assessments, report cards, and cleaning up. The students are hyper, happy, and having a hard time focusing on classwork. The yearbooks are ready, and summer is in the air. Now is the time to prepare for the end of the year, to reflect back on the year that's ending, and to plan for next year. Read on to get some great ideas and printables for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the end of the year.

 


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That's a Wrap: End of the Year Celebration

003The brain likes clean beginnings and clean endings . . . and, calendar check, the end of the year is quickly approaching! Questions begin to form in my mind: Will all the curriculum get covered? Will the assessments and report cards be completed on time? Did I make a difference? Despite all the year-end chaos, it is important to take time to celebrate the educational and emotional journey you and your students will soon be completing. After all, that last day of school can be like a divorce for students who find a haven of belonging and structure at school. 

In the course of my teaching career, I have ended the year in a variety of ways. Below are some of my favorites. I tweaked a few to accommodate the entertainment theme I used in my classroom this year.

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Conquering Test Anxiety

Brain_lead_photoWhether it's a unit test, final exam, or high-stakes state assessment, some students will suffer from test anxiety. Ironically, it is often the student who has the least to worry about who suffers the most. Other students will tell me that they are better at math. Their brain just doesn't like to write. I use brain exercises and music to help my students conquer test anxiety and wake up both sides of their brain. Included in this post is a video demonstrating activities that activate both hemispheres of the brain and reduce stress.

Photo copyright iStockphoto/Glepi.

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Comments: 1

What We'll Do Differently Next Year

DSC01483 One of the greatest things about being teachers is that at the end of each year we can evaluate our past teaching experiences, change what didn't work, and plan new strategies with the hope of perfecting our practice. Even after sixteen years of teaching, I find that every June I ponder the passing year and decide what to get rid of, what to work on, and how to change curriculum and instruction so that come September, my classroom runs more smoothly.

I did an informal survey of teachers in my district and teaching friends across the nation, asking them, "What will you do differently next year?" Responses ranged from working on classroom management and time management to creating projects that tap into higher order thinking skills.

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Comments: 4

Stretch Your Dime and Save Your Time

Miss Bindergarten Saves Money and Time Teachers need all the help they can get, financially and otherwise. Use these tips, shortcuts, and dollar store ideas to save your budget and your sanity.

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Open House, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, OH MY!

DSC00571 The end of the school year is around the corner, and there are still so many events to prepare for. In our school district, we have state testing the first two weeks in May. So the next month or so will be spent preparing for the state test as well as wrapping up the school year with Open House. Read on to find great crafty ideas for Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts as well as instructions for creating an easy Open House slide show.

 

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Simple and Impressive Planet Art

Vasicek Final PlanetMy art skills were arrested at about the 4th grade level: My students can attest to that! So, when I was able to produce a pretty impressive planet scene in under 15 minutes, I was very proud of myself. When I told my students that I used spray paint to do it, they were impressed as well.

 

 

 

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Comments: 14

State Assessments: Multiple-Choice Strategies & Activities

041911iStock_000005780399StndTestFormSometimes I question whether my students are taking a multiple-choice test or a multiple-guess test. By the time the 6th graders get to me, they have had three years of state testing. I worry about the blasé attitudes preteens sometime develop because they have "been there, done that." So how do we motivate our students and prepare them for high-stakes testing? Below are a few reading comprehension strategies and review activities that help our students succeed on the state tests.

Photo copyright Ryan Balderas/iStockphoto.

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Comments: 10

Character Education and the Green Classroom

Thinking It really is easy being green. In this post, you'll find some great ideas for teaching character education in the context of the green classroom — just in time to plan for Earth Day.

 

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Comments: 18

State Assessments: Note-Taking & Writing Strategies

MBlow0411_shutterstock_63405031_girl_writing-2Last week, I received an email from a good friend who shared test-taking tips that she is using in her classroom. The other day, a 6th grader in an unidentified U.S. location wrote, thanking me profusely for the test-taking tips that I had posted on my Web site. She wanted me to know that she is “less nervous to take the exam.” The next email was from a fellow blogger, Renee, who was looking for paired passages to use for state test review. It is evident that teachers and students across the country are in state testing mode. Read on for some of the review strategies I use in my classroom.

Photo copyright Shutterstock/jeka.

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Comments: 2

Adventures With Books: One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies

One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
Join my class as we turn the book One Tiny Turtle into a unit of fun and exciting learning experiences. This lyrical and informative look at the elusive and endangered loggerhead turtle is sure to delight young nature lovers.

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Celebrating Eric Carle and The Tiny Seed

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One of my favorite children's book authors and illustrators is Eric Carle. He is one of our classroom favorites as well. A while back, I even had the pleasure of hearing him read The Very Hungry Caterpillar LIVE at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Read on to get some fabulous resources for The Tiny Seed, watch a book trailer featuring Eric Carle, and listen to our Tiny Seed podcast!

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Nonfiction: Getting to Know Rachel Carson

Vasicek Carson CoverReading nonfiction is quite different from reading fiction. I find many upper elementary students have a hard time sorting through the facts and information in a nonfiction text. One series of books, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists, is becoming a hit with my students. These books are the perfect size for practicing nonfiction reading strategies, and the content is of high interest to the students.

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Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan

BookcoverThis year, I was blessed to receive a class set of Chu Ju's House by Gloria Whelan, which tells the story of Chu Ju, a 14-year-old Chinese girl struggling to survive in a country where males are traditionally valued more than females. When Chu Ju's parents decide to give her baby sister away because of the One-Child Policy, Chu Ju leaves home with her. Teaching literature from other cultures requires a considerable amount of background knowledge. However, it is exciting learning about different cultures, and that excitement spreads through the class.

After reading Chu Ju’s House, students engage in a mini research project, exploring an aspect of Chinese culture alluded to in the novel. This assists the students in developing a thorough understanding of the legal and cultural conflicts presented in the novel. In this post, you'll find a study guide, instructions for a vocabulary wall mobile, and  SMART Notebook activities.

 

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Solutions are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Scholastic Inc.