Classroom Solutions > 190 posts categorized "Teaching Tip"

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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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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Going Paperless in the Classroom

AamcscI am reluctant to guess how much paper waste we create in my classroom alone, but I know it's substantial. So I've set a goal of going paperless in my English class within two years. Read on to learn about why this is important — and why it will benefit my students — and how I intend to do it.

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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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Comments: 2

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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Take-Home Reading

Child readingTake-Home Reading is a special program for 1st grade that helps each and every child become a better reader. Learning to read takes a lot of practice, and I expect my students to read at home. In just twenty minutes per day, parents and family members help their 1st graders by listening to them read.

Read on to learn more about Take-Home Reading programs and to find out how to set one up in your classroom. 

 

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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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Comments: 2

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

Map

"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: 1

Proposing the Use of E-readers in the Classroom

KindlepostThe idea of using e-readers in my classroom came to me several years ago. As textbooks become more expensive and school budgets continue to shrink, e-readers and e-books have become a popular option for schools. After researching e-readers and programs at other schools, I decided to put a proposal together for my school. 

Before launching a schoolwide program, I proposed that my school board pilot e-readers in my English classroom. As I prepared my proposal, I realized that my proposal revolved around three key questions: 1) Which e-reader best fits my school's needs? 2) How will e-readers be used? 3) How will e-readers benefit students in my classroom? These questions, along with a discussion of the benefits of e-readers, possible outcomes of the program, and the replacement cost of current materials, were all included in my proposal to use e-readers in the classroom.

 

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Organizing the Classroom Library

BookshelfDo you love children’s literature? I do, and I share this love of books with my students. I display books throughout the entire classroom. Star author books line the chalkboard ledge, weekly read-aloud books are displayed around the easel, and favorite titles and themes are arranged in baskets on the bookshelves. I strive to create a classroom library that is both organized and enticing for my young readers. This week, I will provide a look at the features of our classroom library.

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Comments: 4

Organizing my Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story

Library OverviewAs I set up my classroom this year, I was so proud of myself. I had carefully organized when I packed up my room in June, so my room looked “livable” in just a few hours this fall. “Wow, this is smooth sailing,” I thought smugly. Then I approached my classroom library, and I didn’t emerge until 8:30 p.m.! 

The hours disappeared as I labeled book baskets, leveled new books, culled through my collection, and planned new library routines. This was certainly time well spent, but I have to tell you, sometimes my “librarian hat” feels heavier than my “teacher hat.” That said, I feel that much of my success as a reading teacher can be attributed to my classroom library. Join me on a photo tour of my classroom library, as I reflect on my organization systems and what works for me.


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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: 1

Tips For A Great Back-to-School Night Presentation

School 2 Back-to-School Night is one of the first events on the school calendar. It is an evening where parents come to school to find out specific information about the grade-level curriculum, classroom rules and policies, year-long goals, special events, and the teacher’s philosophy. For most teachers, Back-to-School Night can be stressful. Carefully organized planning will allow you to feel confident and to convey a great first impression. Read on for tips to make your Back-to-School Night a success.

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Comments: 2

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

Simple Ideas for Establishing Classroom Rules and Manners

Rules

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

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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Comments: 9

My Classroom Management Must-Haves, Part 2: Float Jars and More

Float Jar1Last week, I wrote about the color chart that I use to help my students manage their individual behavior choices. The color chart is my saving grace, but it is not the panacea for all behavior woes. This week, I am going to share some more of my favorite management strategies: The Float Jar, Table Stars, and my Homework Black Book.

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Comments: 8

Three Tech Tools to Collect and Analyze Student Interest Data

ToolsOur classroom and teaching strategies must be student focused. Maintaining a positive teacher and student relationship is very important.  According to Jim Burke in his book The Teacher's Essential Guide Series: Classroom Management, "the student-teacher relationship is the cornerstone of an engaging, successful classroom."  To build relationships with my students, I first need to know them. Talking with them in the hallways and at lunch is a start, but I need to know what they enjoy and what their strengths and weaknesses are in the classroom. Using "icebreaker" activities gives me some perspective on their personality, but doesn't tell me if a student enjoys reading or knows how to use various technologies. I have used paper and pencil surveys, but it is very time consuming to collect and analyze the data. However, I have found three time saving tech tools to collect and analyze student interest data.

 

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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: 16

My Classroom Management Must-Haves, Part 1: Color Charts

Jon Color ChartAt the beginning of each school year, I revisit the question that is central to my beliefs about classroom management. How do I structure a classroom environment where my students actively nurture the community because they believe in the importance of co-creating the world in which they want to work and play? Over the years I have experimented with several systems, and I continue to grow and refine my management style. However, I’ve stumbled upon some keepers that I use from year to year. This week I am going to share one of my go-to management strategies, The Color Chart.

 

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Comments: 2

Creating a Professional Learning Community This Fall

DSC00001 The motto of my school district, Randolph Central, is "Learning with passion, innovation, and leadership." This serves as an excellent foundation for my teaching, as well as a reminder of how crucial it is to inspire students with our instruction. A professional learning community (PLC) is a wonderful way to focus on student learning and assess teaching practices. And in these tough economic times, in-house professional development opportunities, like PLCs, are even more attractive. Read on to learn more about creating your own professional learning community.

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Comments: 15

Classroom Setup: Arranging the Physical Space

classroom setuupIt won’t be long until summer is behind us and we are back at school. I’ve spent hours imagining the perfect classroom setup, and in about three weeks, it will be time to transform my thoughts into reality. Experience has taught me that details matter. How quickly I am reminded of the sheer exhaustion of classroom setup when I see furniture piled high, boxes stacked one on top of another, and closets packed full of materials. The classroom space is clean, fresh, and anything but organized! I begin my classroom setup wisely by reflecting on student learning and my teaching practices.

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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: 3

Surviving the Back-to-School Transition

Blog1resize2Wow! This summer is flying by. The new school year is weeks away. The transition back to school is difficult whether we’ve been off for a couple months or just a few weeks. This year will be my fifth year going through the back to school transition as a teacher. Late nights and sleeping in will soon turn into late nights and getting up early to teach. The evenings spent by the pool or in front of the TV watching movies will turn into evenings preparing for lessons or grading. I know my students will struggle with the transition, too, so it is important that I am ready for the first day.

This transition doesn’t get any easier, but here are four things you can do to survive the transition back to school.

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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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Comments: 4

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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Comments: 62

End-of-the-Year Reflections

DSC00135As the school year draws to a close, I begin reflecting back on everything that's happened. What were the challenges this year? What could I have done differently? Join me as I answer these questions and more. You can also watch a cute video of a few of my students reflecting on their 2nd grade year.

 

 

 

 

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Comments: 3

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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Resources for the Differentiated Classroom

Mult-Sensory Teaching In a previous post, I wrote about how you can differentiate your kindergarten classroom. Here you can read up on some of my favorite resources for multisensory teaching.

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Comments: 2

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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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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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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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: 4

Motivating Middle School Students

IMG_5957It takes a special breed to teach middle school students. Teens and preteens thrive on drama, struggle with hormones, and explode with emotions. As if that isn’t enough, this time of year we also have to contend with a spring fever epidemic. Many students shut down as snow banks thaw and the Canada geese return to the North Country. With ten weeks left in the school year and only one month before state tests, we cannot allow students to check out. So, how do we motivate our middle school students and keep them engaged in learning? Celebrate their achievements and give them choice and voice. This post describes some of the ways teachers celebrate student achievement at my school, and a video illustrates what one student chose to do when given voice and choice.

 

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Comments: 12

April Fools' Day: A Foolproof Primer on Classroom Laughter

April Fools Day - Laughter and Humor in the ClassroomHappy April Fools' Day, everyone! Since today celebrates the spirit of fun, I thought I'd talk about the importance of humor and laughter in the classroom, how to utilize it, and why you don't have any excuses not to. Also, take a look at my students, caught on candid camera.

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Comments: 4

Cool Web Tools for Teachers and Kids! Part Two

NJang_0323111_iStock_000001186054_Websurfing
Last week at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs I saw a ton of great presentations. This week I am excited to share what I learned during a great presentation called "Extreme Makeover: Web Site Edition" by Brent Coley, a 5th grade teacher in Murietta, California.  Read on for ten great suggestions for making your Web site interactive, informative, and useful with FREE, easy-to-use apps!

 

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Comments: 2

Get Ready for National Poetry Month!

DSC01412 
April is National Poetry Month, the perfect time to help get reluctant readers interested in reading and analyzing poetry. It is often true that high school students struggle with poetry and have difficulty unlocking the meaning of poems. This introductory lesson helps to hook students on poetry by challenging them to solve the riddle that each poem presents. It's a great building block to more difficult and challenging analysis.

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Comments: 12

St. Patrick's Day — Mischief o' the Leprechaun

St. Patrick's Day in  Kindergarten and PreK Yesterday, there was an incident in my classroom. My students and I walked in and found it torn apart. Furniture was tipped over; supplies were scattered everywhere; the whole place was a mess. And there were funny green footprints all over . . .

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Comments: 8

Middle School Literature Circles

IMG_5890Okay, I confess: I thrive on organization and structure in my classroom. My students like routines, and I like to know what progress each student is making on a daily basis. If you are like me, then your first experience with literature circles may just put you over the edge. Relinquishing control of my classroom was not easy. Read how I learned to let go and guide my students through the organized chaos of literature circles. 

 

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Comments: 52

Preparing for High Stakes State Testing

NJang0310iStock_000012973521_Test

In California, we do our state testing in May, but we begin reviewing and planning for it now. Second grade is the youngest grade to take state tests in California, and we take it very seriously. I hope that you will find some helpful testing tips for students and teachers in this post.

 

 

Photo Credit: Blueberries/iStockphoto

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Comments: 6

Easy Writing Ideas for Early Writers

Writing in PreK and Kindergarten“Easy writing ideas?” you ask. “But my students don’t even know how to write!” You’re in luck. These ideas are suitable for children with limited word and print knowledge, in the beginning stages of reading and writing. Each can be adapted for any ability level, from prewriter to fluent writer. By providing options for students at different stages in their literacy journey, you help them build confidence and set every child up for success in writing.

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Comments: 6

I Love to Read! Surefire Ways to Create Lifelong Book Lovers

I Love to Read Month February is “I Love to Read Month,” the perfect time to assess if your students do, in fact, love to read. Are they captivated by good stories? Does reading fill them with excitement and enthusiasm? Do they play with the sounds of language in a literature-rich environment that promotes active learning through highly engaging activities? If the answer to any of these questions is no (and even if it’s yes!), it may be time to arm yourself with a repertoire of techniques guaranteed to get every child in your class saying “I love to read!”

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Comments: 12

Character Education in PreK & Kindergarten

Character Education in PreK and KindergartenWhat children learn about character in the early childhood classroom can shape their character for the rest of their lives. So how do you teach it?

 

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Comments: 20

Classroom Management: Tips to Make Your Class Minutes Count

DSC00410I love teaching, and I love teaching even more when I can maximize my academic minutes and minimize interruptions and distractions. When I was a new teacher, I can't tell you how many minutes were wasted every day because of children arguing over "cutting" in line or seats for read-aloud. Kids missed precious class time during trips to the restroom, where they played in the stalls and flooded the bathroom. Incomplete homework was another recurring problem. Many of the kids who didn't turn in their homework suffered from an overloaded social calendar, travelling between spilt parents, or had parents who were not able to speak English. I was at my wit's end. What could I do to solve these problems? Read on to find out!


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Comments: 2

Updates: Opera, High School Uncut SAT Vocab

DSC_0249On Friday, February 4, 2011, five sophomore boys from Revere High School had a most extraordinary experience: they got to be extras in Teatro Lirico D'Europa's performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston. I've told you all before how lucky we are that Jenny Kelly, director, provides us with sixty to one hundred free tickets for each of her performances in Boston, but this was straight-up-over-the-top! Teatro operas are quite the extravaganza: there is a full orchestra, and the opera is sung in Italian with English subtitles provided on a screen above the stage. Lucia di Lammermoor features one of the most famous mad scenes in all of opera — and this was the scene in which our boys appeared as extras, as seen in the photo, standing perfectly at attention.

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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.