Sunday, January 15, 2017

Valentine's Day in the Classroom

No pun intended, but we love celebrating Valentine's Day in our classroom. Here are a few of our favorite ways to celebrate Love Day with the Littles...
Valentine's Day in the classroom
Valentine's Day classroom party ideas
We throw a Red Party every Valentine's Day in our classroom. From red foods to wearing red, we embrace the color of love all day long. As you can see, we try to keep it somewhat healthy with bagels, strawberry cream cheese, and red fruits. The kids are so excited and don't even notice the donuts are missing.
Valentine's Day classroom party ideas
We sneak in a little reading and writing by creating Friendship Bingo mats using our class names and other Valentine's Day vocabulary.  
We give them conversation hearts as markers. They love being the "callers" when we play this Valentine's Day game! It's also a great activity to work on during February centers. A classroom volunteer or the kids themselves (as they become more independent) can be the Friendship Bingo callers.
You can download our Red Party and Friendship Bingo templates {here}.
Our class loves making bookmarks. These are nothing fancy, but given a simple piece of red posterboard, foam stickers, yarn, and...wait for it...MARKERS, they love crafting these to declare their love for reading!
Hot Spot Relay races are a fun challenge that gets them outside, moving and practicing teamwork too. We simply cut 2 large construction paper hearts out for each team (cut a few extras in case there is an accidental rip). Split the class in half and send them walking their way on the hot spots. The goal is to move each heart as you step, not stepping on the ground (AKA "hot lava") below. It's tricky, but they get the hang of it. For younger kids, don't have them take as many steps. Once they reach the end, they pick up their hot spots and run back to the start to tag the next person.
Back in class, we race to stack 10 conversation hearts. You can adjust the number depending upon the age of the kids.
Of all the activities we do on Valentine's Day, our favorite is giving our students an opportunity to spread kindness. We spread some love around our school by creating and posting kindness messages throughout the halls.
Kindness activities for the classroom
We also spend a lot of time teaching and giving compliments. It is one of our most powerful lessons all year and carries us through the months beyond Valentine's Day. Here's our original post about using Compli-mats in the classroom. We've updated our templates and added several more for use beyond Valentine's Day.  
Compli-Mats for building empathy and kindness in the classroom
 You can download our Compli-mats activity for free in our TpT Shop.
Are you ready to celebrate Valentine's Day in your classroom? What's your favorite way to spend Love Day? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wonderful Weather: Activities for the Primary Classroom

Weather activities for the primary classroom
It's been pretty wet and rainy off and on these past few weeks, but that didn't stop Mother Nature from showing up and delivering one last AMAZING rainbow for 2016!
We're taking it as a sign that 2017 is going to be an awesome year!

While we were staying warm and cozy in our pajamas winter break attire, we gave our Wonderful Weather resource a little re-do.
Weather lessons for the primary classroom
Here's a peek at our updated Wonderful Weather unit:
Weather lessons for the primary classroom
 We've updated all of the Weather Word and Bingo Cards by using photographs instead of clip art. We find that when learning new vocabulary, photographs provide the concrete concepts our students need to comprehend the science vocabulary we are introducing to many of them for the very first time.
Weather vocabulary cards for science activities
We keep our Weather Words up in the class pocket chart for the entire learning unit. Then, they go into our word center for use throughout the rest of the school year. 

Weather vocabulary activities for the primary classroom. Weather bingo helps build essential science vocabulary through games.
We've provided kid-friendly weather word definitions to help students learn words fast! We print and laminate a few of these to keep around the classroom. They are perfect for building common classroom language to accompany their weather vocabulary. We give them to classroom volunteers when playing Weather Bingo to take the game to a higher level...We give the definition, they cover the word if they have it.
Weather vocabulary activities for the primary classroom. Weather bingo helps build essential science vocabulary through games.
Once we've learned our new weather vocabulary, we incorporate activities to practice these new words into our whole group and centers time. Our class loves playing Weather Bingo, and once they are confident with the words, we have them create their own Weather Bingo boards like the one below. They write the word and draw a picture to match. Students can play with their own boards or trade with classmates. These cards can be laminated and used all year, or just copied and kept for the learning unit, then sent home. Our class loves playing Weather Bingo and they don't even realize how much vocabulary they are learning while playing.

Weather vocabulary activities for the primary classroom
Our class has more opportunities to practice their weather words by working on our weather vocabulary activities during whole class or centers time.

Weather vocabulary activities for the primary classroom

Weather vocabulary activities for the primary classroom

Weather vocabulary activities for the primary classroom
The majority of our weather lessons center around our Wonderful Weather little book. This research reader is copied and provided to each student at the beginning of our science unit. We've created two options for differentiated instruction ~ Read and Draw where students simply read for research and illustrate for comprehension or Fill-In where they must use the weather vocabulary word cards and their knowledge to fill in the missing words throughout the book. 
Weather activities for the primary classroom. Wonderful weather research reader. Differentiated non-fiction science readers for the classroom.

Weather activities for the primary classroom. Wonderful weather research reader. Differentiated non-fiction science readers for the classroom.
Read, write, and craft all about wind.
One of our absolute favorite additions to Wonderful Weather is our "All About Wind" Read, Write, Create activity. First they use the "Wind" Fact Finders to read and research all about wind. They highlight key information as they go. Next, they gather three facts they learned about wind and add it to their brainstorm page for writing all about wind. Finally, they turn their writing into a windsock that hangs all around the classroom. The kids love this activity and learn a ton about wind in the process!
Create a weather writing wind sock!
If you own our Wonderful Weather resource already, be sure to re-download your TpT purchase to get this updated unit.
Wonderful Weather for the Common Core Classroom
If you'd like to take a closer look at our Wonderful Weather Unit...
Here's a few more of our favorite weather activities that we love incorporating into our unit:
The Magic School Bus "Kicks Up a Storm"...I mean, Ms. Frizzle?! The Frizz? Yes way! Need we say more?! This is the perfect launch or wrap up to our weather learning. We bought a set of all the Magic School Bus episodes at Costco, but you can find a lot of them on YouTube too.
Weather activities for the primary classroom. Draw and paint a wind blown self-portrait.
We stumbled upon this wind painting idea a few years ago and thought it was hilarious! So naturally, we had to try it and it has been a class favorite ever since. Students start by drawing a bald picture of themselves. Hilarious already if you've ever been in a first grade classroom and used the word "bald". Bahahahahaha...
Weather activities for the primary classroom. Draw and paint a wind blown self-portrait.
Provide students with a straw and watered down paint colors to match their hair color. Drop a few spots of paint around their head and let them blow the paint around through your straw. We find watering the tempera paint down a bit helps their little mouths move that paint around a bit faster and doesn't leave them so winded by the time they're through!
TEACHER TIP: This is an amazing activity if your class is a little chatty one afternoon. Nobody can talk with straws in their mouths! Joke's on them...Hilarious!! 😜
Weather activities for the primary classroom. Draw and paint a wind blown self-portrait.
It takes them awhile, but they are determined because they think it is so funny!
Weather activities for the primary classroom. Draw and paint a wind blown self-portrait.
We hung these in the school hallway right outside the library and titled the board, "Look Who the Wind Blew In!". Everyone thought it was hilarious!
To wrap up our weather learning, we perform a "Wonderful Weather" show for the entire school during our monthly awards assembly. We use a few songs from this play by Bad Wolf Press.
We are also in charge of decorating the school auditorium bulletin boards for our show, so we have our students write about their favorite weather and create these quick and easy rainbow cloud characters. All they need is a white piece of paper, strips to match the colors of the rainbow, scissors, glue stick, black pen and a pink crayon. Cut (or tear) a cloud shape out of the white paper. Draw a dashed line border around the edge of the cloud. Add eyes, a mouth and pink cheeks with the crayon. Next, wrap the ends of each rainbow colored strip around the crayon to curl them. Adhere each strip to the back of the cloud, so they hang down. That's it!
Weather writing activities for the primary classroom
To see more wonderful weather ideas that we've collected for our classroom, head over and check out our Wonderful Weather Pinterest board.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Classroom Procedures for Walking Through School

 Class management procedures for walking through the halls and school.
It seems like such a simple expectation...Walking through the halls of a school that is. But the reality is, sometimes there's a bit of a learning curve when it comes to walking around campus for our little learners. So, our school adopted an acronym called WALK... Seemed fitting. ;)
We have WALK posters posted all around school, both inside and outside of our classrooms, as visual reminders to our students that they need to walk respectfully around campus.
Create a class walking stick. Class management procedures for walking through the halls and school.
We also created this walking stick to help remind our class of our walking expectations for when we head out and about school.
We simply folded the print out, sealed the open side and top with clear packaging tape and stuck it on the end of a paint stick...Which we also wrapped with duct tape to cover the exposed handle because it was cuter than the paint logo easy. 
Our class line leader grabs the walking stick whenever we leave the classroom.

We've even had a few kids place their fingers in the shape of the letter W over their lips as we walk...We did not teach them this, but we've decided to just stroll with it. ;)

Our school WALK program and our class walking sticks have helped tame our class line tremendously! Our school halls are calm, cool, and collected as students walk on by. Using it school wide has helped everyone stay consistent. The hardest part? Teachers have to follow the rules too! 

Want to start your own school WALK program or create a class walking stick?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Vocabulary Activities for Little Learners ~ Big Brain Words

A few years ago, we sat in a Professional Development meeting faced with the challenge of bringing robust vocabulary to the forefront of our primary classroom. It seemed such a BIG task for such little brains, but one that we agreed was imperative to teaching today’s learners. We spent over a year planning, creating, testing, editing, and analyzing the implementation of our program, Big Brain Words, with our own students. What we discovered was, not only was implementing a purposeful, kid-friendly approach to vocabulary development imperative in our classroom, the kids were begging for Big Brain Words and consistently using the new vocabulary they were learning all the time! Big Brain Words has quickly become a favorite weekly activity in our classroom all year long. By the end, our students leave with BIG brains filled with robust vocabulary!
Each Monday, we introduce 5 Big Brain Words for the week. What's a Big Brain Word? Mostly, it's a catchphrase to set the stage for our kids to buy into our hair brain teaching strategies. ;) But to them, Big Brain Words are our weekly vocabulary words that take a really BIG BRAIN to learn and know. You think kids are up for showing off their BIG brains? You bet!
We have a bulletin board permanently set up in our classroom where we swap out our weekly vocabulary words and pictures. We use these all week! We read them, define them, cheer them, sentence them. Whatever it takes, we incorporate these words into our classroom all week long. But most of all...We simply use them! When we're talking and a Big Brain Word pops out of our mouths, the kids cheer, "That's a Big Brain Word!" When we're reading a story, we've taught our kids to tap their brains if they hear one of our Big Brain words...And they do! Who says primary kids can't learn big words?
In addition to our Big Brain bulletin board, we provide our students with multiple vocabulary activities during our week. We are firm believers that immersing young children in rich, robust vocabulary consistently allows them to retain and comprehend words and definitions with greater ease while expanding their vocabularies naturally. 

First, we introduce our weekly words by creating fridge kids. They take them home to stick up on their refrigerator for weekly reminders to their family to use our Big Brain words when talking at home! We also include a note in our weekly class newsletter to parents. 
Once we've introduced our weekly vocabulary words, we offer many activities for vocabulary acquisition and immersion during our literacy centers time. Our Big Brain Words activities are differentiated and offer opportunities for all learners to feel successful when learning such big vocabulary words. This is especially important for building confidence in our developing readers!
We also offer some higher level Big Brain words activities, called Brain Boosts for fast finishers which our kids seem to pick time and time again!
This little one came to us one day and asked us to make a Big Brain book so she could read and practice her words whenever she wants. She even created her own as a sample so we knew what to make. 
HA! We loved it and of course we created a Big Brain Booklet too.
Big Brain Words Set 1 Includes:

5 Weeks of Lessons & Resources
*Bulletin Board Elements and Ideas
*Vocabulary Posters with Definitions
*Mini Vocabulary Cards with Definitions
*Vocabulary Kids craft and Definition Flips
*Week at a Glance Planning Guide
*Weekly Assessments and Record Keeping Sheet
*5 Big Brain Hunt Pages (1 for each week)
*5 Big Brain Spin Pages
*5 Big Brain Game Pages
*5 Definition Dice Pages
*5 Big Brain Booklets
*5 Big Brain Fill-In Pages (Level 1)
*5 Big Brain Fill-In Pages (Level 2)
*5 Big Brain Fill-In Pages (Level 3)
*5 Rainbow Royalty Pages
*5 Big Brain Foldables
*5 Big Brain Shape Puzzle and Draw and Write Pages
*5 Big Brain Dice
*Answer Keys

We've also added a Growing Bundle which will include our entire Big Brain Words program by January 2017 ~ 6 Big Brain Words sets that will provide you with a comprehensive classroom vocabulary program for the whole year! Grab it on the ground floor for a huge discount now!
We begin Big Brain Words after our Beginning Sounds Boot Camp, about the third week of school. We continue our Big Brain Words program all school year long. It quickly becomes a favorite weekly activity for our class and their vocabulary flourishes all year and beyond! 
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