Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ten Easy Learning Games

I love to use games for my students to practice their skills. Games bring  into play several important concepts from Brain Based Learning. (Pardon the pun!)  Plus, they're fun!

FYI - Images are links to Amazon, in case you're interested!

Here are ten games that are easy to use:

1.  Around the World  This is typically a game to drill basic math facts, but it really can be used in many different ways.  The children sit in a circle.  One person starts the game by standing behind another child. Those two children compete to be the first to answer a fact.  Whoever wins, goes to stand behind the next child.  The contests continue around the circle until someone moves all the way "around the world".  Math facts on cards work well, but I've also used clocks, cards with money, or fraction cards.  I've never tried, but I'm sure it can be played with sight words, too.

2.  Twenty questions  This game is older than I am, but really gets the kids thinking and asking questions.  It's a great time filler.  The only rule:  all questions must be "yes or no" questions.  After a few times through, the kids catch onto generalities such as "Is it an animal?"  With my little ones, I try to limit it to general categories, and I have them write down what they've chosen for the others to guess.  (Sometimes I'll even give them slips of paper to choose that are related to things we've been learning.)

3.  Jeopardy  There are so many possibilities with Jeopardy!  It does take a little planning, but the kids love it!  Here's a link to make your own game!

4.  Yahtzee  This is a great way to practice those addition skills as well as add the thinking skills!  It takes some strategy to play Yahtzee!  Beware, it's addicting!

5.  Apples to Apples  My students could play this all day, and why not?  It practices their reading skills as well as thinking skills such as categorizing.  The best part:  you'll hear lots of giggling!

6.  Scrabble  Combining spelling, vocabulary, adding, and strategy, it's a win-win-win-win, even if they lose!

7. Dominoes  Dominoes are great for practicing math facts!  They add the two sides together to find the sum!  The best part is when they get the fact correct, they can build with the dominoes.  My kids LOVE this!

8. Twenty One  If we were in Vegas, they'd call it Black Jack. Yep, it's the same game, without the gambling.  Students get two cards, add them together, and decide if they want another card.  It's addition and strategy, and it's fun!

9. Dice  There are tons of games to be played with dice.  I have lots of them!  The children can add the sum of two dice, or they can add three (or more) if they're ready!  They also can roll two dice and make a two digit number out of it, then roll a second two digit number to add (or subtract).  I do these two digit number games often, where the children write the numbers on their whiteboards and add them up.  Sometimes we use the base ten blocks to "act it out" as well.

10.  Any Board Game  With a little tweaking, one can turn any board game into a learning game.  Before each turn, the children have to perform some sort of task.  It can be a math fact, a vocabulary word, a math challenge, task cards, or just about anything.

Games are a big part of my classroom, as you might have guessed.  This is just the beginning.  I'd love to hear your ideas for classroom games, too!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ten Picture Prompts

I've been trying to get my students to think about character traits while they are writing.  I've been showing them pictures of children, trying to get them to imagine what that child would say, and how they would say it.  Some of them are delightfully imaginative, and create interesting characters!

  It just so happens that Kathie of The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher, along with Selina of Classroom Magic are sponsoring a linky party for picture prompts.  Here are mine!

What would you say if you were inside an invisible box?  How would you get out?
What happened to make this boy so happy?  What would you say to him?  What do you think he would say?  What will he do next?
What do you think this boy will find when he gets to the bottom of the stairs?
What is this girl thinking about?  What would you say to her?

What is this boy hiding behind his back?  What will you say to him to convince him to show you?

What will you ask this girl about the book she is reading?  What book would you suggest she read next?

What could you say to this boy to get him to finish his homework?  What do you think he will do?

What will you say to this boy to get him to go all the way into the water?  What do you think he will say?

How could you convince this boy to share his ice cream cone?

Would you like to join this boy sledding?  How would you ask him?
Check out this link for lots more picture prompts!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ten Things for Students to do While You're Teaching Reading Groups

One of the toughest thing about being a classroom teacher is keeping those other kids occupied so I can teach reading groups.  Here are some of the things I have my students work on while I'm teaching groups:

1.  Independent Reading  This is the most important one!  They do need to read daily, and it should be books at their level.  My students browse for books from our classroom library, and keep books in book bags for independent reading time.  I also let them relax with pillows.  I try to make Independent Reading the best part of the day... it should be!

2.  Reading Response There are so many ways for children to respond to reading.  They can draw a picture of characters, write about connections, or perhaps do a variety of reading response activities that are out there!  Check out Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest... you'll find a ton of ideas, much of it is free!

3.  Read With a Partner  This is very motivational for the children, and I sometimes use it instead of Independent Reading.  They do love anything social!

4.  Independent Writing  We do have Writer's Workshop nearly every day, but some of the children really love some time to get some writing done during reading group time.  Since writing is usually at the very end of the day, they tend to be more productive when they get a slot of time for writing in the morning.  It's a win - win!

5.  Word Work This is an opportunity to work those phonics skills!  I tend to keep my word work connected to skills and patterns that we are working on in the reading program, but many of my students also need lots of review on short and long vowels, rhyming words, word families, and, of course, sight words.  There are plenty of resources out there, or make your own!  My students love to use their whiteboards, letter tiles, and manipulatives for their word work.

6.  Literacy Games  Literacy games can include word work, comprehension skills, grammar practice, developing vocabulary or any combination of these.  Again, adding that social component motivates the children.  Games are such a great opportunity to practice skills, and they keep the children engaged and happy!

7.  Task Cards  Task cards can practice work work, comprehension skills, grammar skills, thinking skills, or even social studies or science!  You can make your own or use task card you've found.  

8.  Read with a Teacher Assistant or Parent Volunteer  I do have a few little ones with very short attention spans or just need a little more guidance.  These children really benefit from reading with an adult.  The adults are encouraged to stop and chat about the story and encourage understanding as well as enjoyment.

9.  Practice Handwriting Skills Sometimes they just have to focus on making the letters touch the lines in the right places!  We are lucky enough to have Handwriting workbooks, but any paper will do!  They can even practice handwriting skills on whiteboards or chalkboards.

10.  Practice Spelling Words Have you found Spelling City?  The children also love practicing their words with a partner on their white boards.  They look out for each other, and the whiteboards are very forgiving.

What do your students do while you're teaching reading groups?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ten Favorite Picture Books I Love to Read to My Students

Here is a list of children's books I love to read.  This is just a small portion of my favorites, but they're so much fun! (Each image is a link to Amazon.)

1.  Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens I love reading this book in the spring when we're working on our plant unit. Even though it's fiction, it gives the children some information on which vegetables grow above ground and which vegetables grow below ground. Plus, I've always found some great predicting skills happening as the bear and the rabbit continue their "deals". 
 2.  Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes  I always read this at the beginning of the school year.  So many of the kids can connect to the little girl who wants to be good, but can't.  I think it shows them it's OK to make a mistake.
 3.  Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian  If you haven't seen this yet, it's adorable!  Buy a copy or two, your students will love it!

4.  Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag  This was the book I wanted read to me over and over when I was a child.  I think I loved the repetition.  My students still chant along with me when I read it!

5.  Jubal's Wish by Don and Audrey Wood  This is a heartwarming book about a frog with a selfless wish for his friends to be happy. His wish doesn't come true at first, but don't worry, there's a happy ending!

6. Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli  This book is adorable (and perfect for Valentine's Day!)  Poor Mr. Hatch lives a lonely life until he thinks someone loves him.  Then his whole personality changes. 
7.  Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina  Yes, this is another book with a repetitive phrase.  It's also one where the whole class not only chants along, but physically becomes part of the story.  A book with monkeys... gotta love it!

8.  The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch  Robert Munsch really knows what makes kids laugh.  I love all his books, but this is my favorite.  It's not a typical fairy tale, it's about a smart princess!

9.  For the Love of Autumn by Patricia Polacco  This book will warm your heart!  Autumn is an adorable kitten of a young schoolteacher.  Very, very sweet!
 10.  Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss  Seriously, this isn't just for kids.  I gave this to my daughter when she graduated from high school.  But the kids love it, too!

I'd love to hear about your favorite picture books!

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