Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three Tips to Help You & Your Students Love the End of the School Year: An End of the Year Blog Hop & Giveaway!


Thanks for joining me for this amazing blog hop and giveaway hosted by Cait's Cool School. There are some really fun prizes, so don't forget to collect your letters and enter the Rafflecopter when you're finished!  I hope you learn some new tricks and tips to keep your classroom thriving during this hectic and crazy time of the year.

It’s that time of year (already)!  Where did the year go?  Spring is in the air, testing season is in full swing, and your students are READY for summer vacation.  There are just two little problems; May and June.  What’s a teacher to do with a class full of squirrely students who dream of nothing more than ice cream cones and going to the beach?  Well, I’ll tell you what has worked for me. Here are three tips to help your students and you stay strong until that last bell rings before summer break.

#1 Make your classroom inviting!  I am always the last teacher to tear down bulletin boards, posters, and decorations in my building. I have never had my students help me clean cupboards or organize materials.  When teachers start tearing down walls after testing season, it sends a message that no more learning will occur.  Bare walls are ugly, and students are less likely to give their best effort if they know that anything they create is just going into the circular file or not given a grade.  Think about it. When you go shopping, do you stop and browse, grab a coffee and linger when the building is under construction? Nope, me either. I want to get out of there as soon as possible, and your students will do the same if they feel their classroom is in an upheaval as well. Save the tearing down until after your students have left for the summer and let them continue learning in a cheery space.

#2 Make learning exciting and keep them engaged until the very last day!  My students are always stunned when I give them a writing assignment on the very last day of school.  Even though it's a simple letter writing assignment to their next year's teacher, it keeps them in 'school mode' and helps them reflect on their year. You can grab a simple graphic organizer and writing pages here.  I want my students to be fully engaged until the very last bell rings. If they know that all they are going to be doing is ‘fluff’, they aren’t going to be actively engaged.  And when kids are just killing time, trouble ensues.
This time of year is a great time to switch up your routines a little, and allow a bit more flexibility in your schedule.  Project-based learning tasks, S.T.E.M. activities, art with writing, and craftivities are all hands-on, engaging ways to keep your students excited and focused this time of year. They might require more time and preparation than a traditional worksheet, but your students will be attentive much longer.
You can also expand the walls of your classroom by taking your lessons outside.  Service learning projects, Outdoor School, beautifying the school with art or new plants for example, all require cross-curricular skills if integrated correctly.  You’ll be able to put those summer countdowns away because your students are going to be having so much fun!

#3  Have some fun while reviewing learned concepts!  One of my favorite end of school activities is making ice cream in a bag. Numerous recipes can be found online, and it’s really pretty simple once you get an assembly-line of ingredients ready. But what I love most about this activity is that it encompasses so many different skills: teamwork, sharing, and a review of fractions and states of matter.  What other projects can you think of that integrate several subjects/ and or review at the same time? My students have always enjoyed this activity and it’s a great way to send them off on a positive, fun note.  They’ll definitely want to come to school if they know they’re making ice cream in class. 

And that’s what we want, isn’t it?  We want our ‘kids’ to want to come to school each and every day to learn as much as they possibly can, within the short amount of time we are lucky enough to be called their teacher.  So, as exhausting as it may be to try new projects or gather supplies for a new activity, try and muster up ten extra minutes and give it a shot.  I can almost guarantee your students are going to be having so much fun (and be actively learning), that summer vacation will be here before you know it!

Please let me know if you try any of these tips in your classroom and how they turn out! 

 As for the scavenger hunt to reveal the secret phrase, scan the QR code below to reveal your mystery letter from me. 

 Then head on over to Red Sister Squad to get even more tips to help you love the end of the school year!

Before you go, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win  $50 gift cards to Teachers Pay Teachers AND Target! Woohoo! (Two of my favorite places in the whole wide world!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 1, 2016

My Favorite Earth Day Read Alouds for Grades 2-4

Good day!

Earth Day is just around the corner, so I thought I would round up some of my favorite reads if you'd like to add to your collection.

(You are welcome to click any of the affiliate links (pictures) to purchase any titles immediately from Amazon.)

1) The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by Dawn Casey is a beautifully illustrated collection of folk tales that showcase how cultures around the globe respect and live side-by-side with nature.  I love the activities that are included too; such as building bird feeders, wigwams, and paintings.

2) The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs:  A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle, is a nonfiction selection about what is being done to repopulate the dwindling yellow frog population in Panama. Your students will use so many skills (predicting, drawing conclusions, inferring) trying to figure out this mystery!

3) The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a tale of a small boy who is tired of living in a dreary, gray city.  When he goes to explore an abandoned set of railroad tracks, he discovers a few dying plants that just need a little TLC.   When others join him on his quest to beautify the city, their living spaces become much happier places.

4) Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg tells the story of a boy that is careless with his trash and does not respect his environment.  Through a dream that takes him into the future, he sees the destruction this type of attitude will create.  In the end, he realizes the importance of taking care of our Earth.

5) Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, is a true story about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathi. It inspires students to do what they can to help preserve the Earth, just as she did in her native Kenya by planting trees to help reverse the effects of deforestation and erosion.

6) Nature Recycles, How About You? by Michelle Lord takes a look at different animals in their habitats and how they recycle and reuse things in nature in order to survive.  Your students will be inspired to come up with ways to reuse items in their everyday lives too.

7) Operation: Reuse It! by Sabbrithry Presad leads a group of youngsters on a scavenger hunt through one's garage to figure out how they can repurpose old, forgotten treasures. What can't be reused is donated.  This story will encourage your students to declutter their homes.

8) Our House is Round: A Kids' Book About Why Protecting the Earth Matters, by Yolanda Kondonassis will open up many cause and effect discussions on topics such as planting trees, recycling, and conserving energy. Many of the questions in the story would make great writing prompts or mini research projects.

9) A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry documents how the Industrial Revolution changed the livelihoods of the native Nashua Indians when their nearby river became polluted.  This is a great read to demonstrate cause and effect relationships concerning pollution.

10) What's So Special About Planet Earth? by Robert Wells takes kids on an imaginary space adventure to discover how Earth can sustain life, and other planets cannot. A cross-curricular read, one will be able to review facts about the solar system, as well as ways to help preserve Earth's natural resources.

If you're interested in some fun literacy, math, and S.T.E.M. activities to help your Earth Day lesson planning be that much easier, check out this resource available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.