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Five "MUST DOs" on the First Day of School

  Starting a new school year?

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

A few years ago, I posted THIS

Six Things to remember on the first day of school: for novices and experienced teachers, some helpful reminders for that big day!

I listed six things that are important for that first day, but I want to mention some specifics that I make sure I do every year on the first day of school.

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

1. Start with something that holds their interest, yet needs no instruction!

If your school is anything like mine, the kiddos stroll in bit by bit on the first day. 

As each child comes in, of course you'll need to greet them and tell them how glad you are to see them, where to put their belongings, and help them find their seats. 

Therefore the others need to be doing something that doesn't need your help.  Here are some examples:

1. Draw a picture/ write a sentence about themselves. (Depending on their abilities, of course!)
2. Clay or Play Dough
3. Explore manipulatives like Pattern Blocks or Cuisenaire Rods.
4. Puzzles. (at their level, of course!) 

I'm sure you can think of more!
Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

2. Bathroom Procedure!

They do tend to get nervous about this, don't they? As soon as everyone is in place, I tell them what they need to do if they need to use the bathroom. 

Of course, I try to remind them about bathroom etiquette without being too "parent-like" about it..."Since you're second graders, you don't need to be reminded to wash your hands when you finish, do you?"

We have a bathroom in our classroom, so I show them how to lock the door for privacy, how the door unlocks automatically from the inside when you turn the handle, what do if the bathroom is in use (Knock!) what to say if you're in there and someone knocks, ("just a minute") and where to wait if someone is in there. (NOT near the door, since many are self-conscious about someone listening when they're in there.)

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

3. Read to them!

I truly believe the most important thing we can teach children is the value of reading. Since in the younger grades, the kiddos are still learning to read, the most important thing is to teach them a love for books. There are a whole lot of fabulous "first day of school" books, but I always choose to read one of my very favorites.

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day! 

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

Why do I choose one of my favorites?  Because it's important that the children see my passion for books. The above book images represent 3 of my very favorites. Every time I've read these, the children have LOVED the books, talked about the books, and looked for the books to read again themselves. I'm sure you have your favorites, too! Those would be the ones to read the first day.

Just be sure to keep it short. Remember, the children haven't had to sit still for a long time!

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

4. Today's Math Lesson: Make a graph!

 
There are several children who worry about dismissal time. Will they find their bus? Will they know where to go? Will they find their way home? 

I try to settle those worries long before the end of the day by making a graph as our very first math lesson. 
Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!
This is the form I use that is specific to my school and my music theme in the classroom. You may notice we have no walkers, That's because it's a very rural community and there are no sidewalks!

One by one, I'll ask each student where they go after school, check it with my master list, then put their name on the list. (I already have a list, but I want to make sure THEY know!) The children can follow along on their own copy if they want, but I'll keep a master list. 

When we're done, the list might look something like this:
Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!


Just to get their brains going, I'll ask a few questions (Which bus group has the most children?  Which bus group has exactly 3 children?) Then I'll encourage them to ask each other questions that can be answered by the graph.

Then we'll practice for the end of the day. I'll assign each group a "waiting spot" for the end of the day. I make it clear to each member of the group that they need to work as a team, and make sure all team members make it to the bus safely.

I know in some schools, teachers walk their children to the bus. In our school, the buses are called as each one arrives, and the teacher stays in the classroom while the others wait for their bus. Since I can't go with them, I count on them looking out for each other. 

What about Evan and Michael, who are the only ones from our class who ride those buses? I make it the responsibility of the whole class to make sure these guys leave on time, and I usually look to the nearby classes so they'll see someone they know is on their bus.  

Team work matters! Let's get them all home safely!

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

5. Enjoy!

If you're anything  like most teachers I know (including myself) you've wanted to be a teacher all your life. This is what you've always wanted to do! It's a very difficult job, but the rewards are totally worth it. Enjoy those children. Let them see how much you enjoy them. It's a win-win!

Five "Must Dos" on the first day of school: There are a whole lot of fun things to do on that first day, but these are 5 things I'll make sure happen every first day!

Paper Bag Dramatics: A Fun Activity for Team Building and Developing Community

Here's a fun activity that's easy to put together, gives the children a chance to be creative, and gives them a chance to work together. It's called Paper Bag Dramatics.

Paper Bag Dramatics: A fun activity for Team Building and Developing Community. Here's an idea that can be used just about anywhere at any time. It encourages groups to solve problems, think creatively, and work as a team.

You'll need enough paper bags for as many groups you'll have. They can work in pairs or small groups, depending on your group.

In each paper bag, you'll put a few items.These can be any items you happen to have hanging around.You can make all the bags identical, or totally different, that's up to you!

You'll need 3 or 4 items per bag.

Here are some ideas:

Paper Bag Dramatics: A fun activity for Team Building and Developing Community. Here's an idea that can be used just about anywhere at any time. It encourages groups to solve problems, think creatively, and work as a team.

If you want, you can have all the items in the bag follow a theme, possibly including areas of the curriculum!

This is the task: Create a skit that includes all the items in the bag. The group will need to write, practice, and perform the play for their classmates.


Some ideas about the process:


1. The time allowed really depends on your group. It's more likely that older groups will require more time than younger groups.

2. Make sure each group plans a beginning, middle, and especially an ending for their skit.

3. Make some ground rules before you begin: one person speaking at a time, someone to write down ideas, what to do if there is a disagreement, and, of course, using good manners.

4. Resist the urge to "help". This challenge is all about problem solving, so let them solve problems as much as they can. I can't help but remember the comments of one of my former students concerning problems in a group project: "We argued at first, then we started listening to each other, and we worked it out." It was one of those moments you really wish an administrator were there!

5. Don't forget to allow time for bows and lots of applause!

6. After all performances, debrief by having the children discuss questions such as: What did your group do well? What was tough for your group? What do you wish you had done differently? What do you want to remember next time you work with a group?

Enjoy your Paper Bag Dramatics!


If you need more ideas for team building, see here: 60 Team Building Games and Activities 
 
Looking for something that can be used for socially distant or remote learning? 20 Socially Distant Team Building Games

Paper Bag Dramatics: A fun activity for Team Building and Developing Community. Here's an idea that can be used just about anywhere at any time. It encourages groups to solve problems, think creatively, and work as a team.






What Color is the Ribbon?

One of the hardest things for little mathematicians is figuring out how to solve word problems in math. 

What Color is the Ribbon? A simple strategy to help students solve math word problems.


I have a little strategy that helps in many cases: get them to visualize the situation. 

The other day, my students were doing a word problem that included measuring a ribbon, and comparing it to another ribbon. 

They looked a little confused, so I suggested they pictured the story problem in their minds. Then I started asking questions...

What Color is the Ribbon? A simple strategy to help students solve math word problems.

Then I kept going.

What Color is the Ribbon? A simple strategy to help students solve math word problems.

Then I worked on getting them to visualize the story.

What Color is the Ribbon? A simple strategy to help students solve math word problems.

And a little more directed questioning...

What Color is the Ribbon? A simple strategy to help students solve math word problems.

This pretty much wrapped it up! (pardon the "ribbon" pun!) They were able to use the picture in their minds to solve the number problem.

This strategy helps in many cases! 


In fact, after a while, they start to ask themselves these questions and can solve the problems by themselves!

Of course, independence is our goal, but we have to lead them there, don't we?

What Color is the Ribbon? A simple strategy to help students solve math word problems.

5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words

I've been fascinated by the brain for years now. I have been reading quite a bit about how the brain works and the best ways to help children learn. 


5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

There are basically two types of words for the children to learn. One kind is based on letter sound relationships and letter patterns. In other words, they can be "sounded out." The other kind of word can't be "sounded out" and must be learned by the way it looks: by sight! These suggestions are to help with sight words. 

Here are some brain strategies that are easy to implement into the classroom to help the kiddos remember those important sight words.
5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

Practice makes permanent! When the children practice a little bit each day, it will help them remember. It's also a good idea to introduce small amounts at a time. If they need to know the first 100 Sight Words, only give them 10 at a time, then slowly adding on as they master those. Going through their pile of sight words for 5 minutes every day is more valuable than once a week for 30 minutes. Remember when you were in college and cramming for an exam? It didn't work so well, did it. (But somehow we got through it!)

5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

Exercise brings oxygen to the brain, and helps the brain become more receptive to learning. We all know that sitting still for too long makes for cranky, wiggly children (and adults!) Experts say bodies to move every 20 minutes. Bodies of children need to move more frequently than that! A quick walk, a little yoga, or a nice stretch are perfect Brain Breaks for little learners.
5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

 Emotions play a big role in memory. If you make it fun, they're more likely to remember. Games make learning fun! A little healthy competition gets the pulse moving and the emotions rolling. It really makes a difference!
5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

Brains are visual! Brains remember colors and other visuals, like cute little pictures. Use color when making word lists or word cards. You can use a variety of colors, but make sure they can be easily read. Make sure the words are appealing for the children.

5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

Experts recommend sight words be practiced in phrases rather than in isolation. Words in isolation don't have much meaning to the children, and brains need meaning. Three or four words in phrases have a lot more meaning and are more likely remembered by growing brains.

I do have some sight word phrases that follow these suggestions. You can find them HERE.


5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

There are built in Brain Breaks.


5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

There are color coded word cards, if desired, with "cute pictures."


5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.
There are plenty of color coded phrase cards, again with "cute pictures." The different colors on the borders correspond to the Fry Sight Word level.

5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

There's also a game that can be used to practice the words or phrases! The pictures correspond to the pictures on the individual cards. Each level of words is compatible with the game board, so it's easy to differentiate.

5 Tricks to Help Them Remember Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.

The game board and cards are easily stored in ziplocks!
 

What are your tricks to help them remember sight words?


Sight Words: based on brain research, here are 5 different strategies to help little readers remember sight words.




5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement

I'm not a big fan of rewards. 

5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.

I feel rewards teach children to expect a payoff every time they put effort into something. Rewards often lead to a sense of entitlement, which isn't what the real world is about. 

HERE is a blog post I wrote a while ago that goes into details about WHY I don't like rewards.
5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.

I know what you're thinking... 
but how do we motivate children to complete work?
 

How do we motivate children to learn?


Well, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. 
The idea is to get children to take pride in their accomplishments.
5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.
It just so happens I've had a gazillion beanies in my basement from when my daughter was younger. She was just at the right age when they became popular, and people kept giving them to her! (If you ask around, I'm sure you could find someone who has a ton of these that they'd love to get rid of!)

No, they don't get to keep the beanies, but they get to keep them on their desk for the day! I'll bet you're thinking...don't the kiddos play with them all day?

Well, no, because I'm pretty strict about that. 
If they play with the beanies, they lose the beanies. 

Every morning the children are invited to put a beanie on their desk to keep them company for the day. They can earn more throughout the day by asking thoughtful questions, showing perseverance, helping classmates, and a variety of "above and beyond" behaviors that I want to emphasize.

Since it's not a thing they get to keep, it's not about greed. 
 

It's about pride. 


5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.

I also have a collection of flags, including many from different countries. I admit, the American flags are the most popular, but once they figure out the other countries, those become popular, too! The flags are rewards, similar to the beanies, but on a higher level. I'll give flags for effort, success on math facts, handwriting awards, or remembering to show their work in math.  Again, they don't get to keep the flags, but it is a source of pride.
5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.

Kids do need to play. Personally, I'd love to see them get a whole lot more recess, but that's not something I can control. But if the group gets their work done in a reasonable amount of time, and they put effort into that work, they can earn some play time. One of their favorites is time to play with the math manipulatives! They also enjoy time with clay, painting, and we even spent some time making paper airplanes! These group rewards serve several purposes: they encourage the children to work as a team, and they get along amazingly well at these times! When it's time to pick up, they're good sports because they know they want to earn this "play time" again! Another thing... giving them specific play time with manipulatives helps them NOT play with them when using them as math tools. 
5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.

Yes, you read that right! When my class brainstormed ideas for things they could earn with good behavior and hard work, science experiments was one of the first things on the list! (Don't tell the kids, most of these science experiments are things I'd do with the children anyway, but when it's used "as  a reward", it's very motivational!)
5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.
Lego Abe has been an important part of my classroom for several years now. I think he was part of a "Happy Meal" toy or something like that, but he's been a big hit!

Every day, Lego Abe gets to sit on the desk of one of my cherubs. It's announced in my daily morning letter, and he always goes to someone who has been a good role model or showed exceptional effort or perseverance. This is clearly stated in the "morning letter announcement." At the end of the day, Lego Abe takes his "Gettysburg Address" back to his "log cabin" to sleep for the night.

You may not have your own Lego Abe, but I'm sure you've got something the children might cherish as much as mine cherish Lego Abe.

Have you noticed a theme? NONE of these rewards are given for being "smart" or "talented." They are given for effort and hard work! Plus, NONE of these rewards are things the children get to keep. They are simply a recognition for a job well done, and encourage children to take pride in what they do.

These rewards don't encourage entitlement, they encourage children to work. Isn't that what we want?

5 Rewards that don't lead to Entitlement - here are 5 ideas that can be used to encourage children to take pride in their work, but not feel entitled to rewards.

Resources for April!

I'm so glad to see the calendar finally turning to April! March has always been a long month, but April has a whole lot of fun learning to be had! 


Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!

Here are links to blog posts for many of the events happening in April!


I've got plenty of April Fool's fun ideas in THIS blog post!
Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!

Looking for Science and Social Studies ideas for April? See my blog post HERE.
 
Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!

Easter is right around the corner. Here are a couple of blog posts to help you out! Easter Resources and An Easter Warning and an Easter Tradition.

Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!

Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!


Don't forget spring! Although we have snow predicted for this weekend here in New England, spring truly is trying to work it's way through this nasty weather! Be sure to check out these Spring Resources!


Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!


Plus, baseball season is starting up! If you have any baseball fans in your classroom, you'll have to checkout Baseball Fun!

Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!


For ideas and resources for Earth Day, see THIS link.
 
Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!
 
Many of my friends and coworkers agree, March was a very long month, but it's April, and there's a whole lot to look forward to! Maybe you can start the month winning some great stuff!

Resources for April! If you'll be teaching in the month of April, this post has links to plenty of ideas, books, videos, and resources!
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