Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guess My Vacation

Save trinkets and treasures from your summer vacation for this back-to-school guessing game. Collect small items that represent the place or places you visited this summer, like shells, postcards, salt-water taffy, key chains, magnets, etc... Decorate a gift bag or lunch bag like ours. 

For kindergarten through second grade we call the game “Guess My Vacation.” For third through fifth, we call it “Guess My Vacation Location.” You can print the label appropriate for your grade level.

Fill the bag with some items from your vacation, plus a sealed envelope containing the name of the place you vacationed. Pull out one item at a time. Ask the class to use their inference skills and guess where you might have gone by looking at each item. Make a list of their guesses. After all items have been removed from the bag, open your envelope to show the answer.

Teachers of third to fifth grade can use trickier items like a picture of the continent where the vacation was located or a postcard of its native animals. Students can guess using the 20 questions method. “Was your vacation in the Northern Hemisphere?” “Was your vacation below the equator?” “Was the climate tropical?”  “Were their mountains?”

As a follow-up, send home paper lunch bags with each student. Have them adhere a label like ours to the front of their bags or let them decorate it themselves. Also give them envelopes and an index card or scrap of paper to write and seal up the answer. Ask them to gather a few small items that represent where they went or what they did on their summer vacation. If any students didn’t go on a vacation, encourage them to cut magazine pictures or draw pictures to show a place they would like to visit.

In a few days, the students will return to school with their bags in hand, ready to play “Guess My Vacation!”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Graphing All Year

Student surveys are one of my favorite things to do. It’s really fun to see the similarities and differences among my students. Often you’ll even see new bridges built and friendships formed after students make their choices. 

The format of conducting surveys in my room has changed from year to year. I’ve had students place clothespins with their names onto a sign to display their choice. I’ve done TONS of graphs on my SMARTBoard. I’ve even had students fill in over-sized graphs that you can wipe off and reuse.

However, my favorite kinds of graphs are the ones that you can keep all year. Sometimes I even have my students write their names to make the bars on the graph to create a permanent record of their choices. They are great conversation starters and it’s entertaining for the students to look back at surveys from the beginning of the year to see how their opinions have changed.

This year we combined all of our favorite surveys into one unit on Teachers pay Teachers. Graphing All Year is a student-centered collection of 40 printable graphs that pose thought-provoking questions, 4 per month, to last the school year. (No more trying to think of surveys last minute! Hallelujah!)

The graph topics have students discussing their opinions and debating their feelings on food, animals and more! After completing each survey, you can use the blank graph at the end of the product with the matching number of categories to allow students to transfer the data into another form (e.g. tally marks or picture graphs).

I love to combine my completed graphs into a class graph book or display each graph on my math board. These graphs are a perfect teaching tool for tallies, totals and comparisons. To crank up a higher level of thinking, students can also use the surveys in a supported forum to discuss their choices and construct arguments to persuade others.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tweet, Tweet

Ann Marie Stephens
Guess who joined Twitter! Ann Marie now has a twitter page that you can follow to hear some first grade funnies, get frequent updates on great books, and introduce you to new authors you're sure to love.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jump on the Reading Train

We are always looking for creative ways to involve our parents in the classroom. Many cannot volunteer consistently and are looking for those one-time events, while some parents cannot get in at all. We have put together a list of many opportunities for parents with our Jump on the Reading Train letter.

We provide a variety of ten options for getting involved without having to make a big commitment. You will love the posters, pictures, books, videos and visits that appear after sending home this letter, and your students will feel proud to share their experiences. If you get enough items, you can even make a bulletin board or hallway display. We have a lot of Spanish speaking students in our classrooms, so we send home a Spanish version as well. Have fun, and let us know if you have other ideas we can add to our list!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back to School Sales

It's that time of year again. Time to kick it into high gear for back to school! Since it’s “Tax Free Weekend” in Virginia, which I count as one of my favorite holidays, I’ve been running around to stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Office Depot, Staples, Michaels, AC Moore, etc. scooping up some awesome deals. This week also marks the beginning of my obsessive price checking on back to school supplies. How much are glue sticks at Target? Are they really four for $0.25 at Office Depot this week? (YES!) Will Crayola crayons get down to 25 cents a pack again this year? What are the Staples penny deals?

But there’s one more sale I always look forward to! Last year Ann Marie and I opened our store on Teachers pay Teachers and have had a good time adding products to our listings.

We’ve made lists of our favorite Can’t Miss Books for each month (that you can snag for free), 
shared our fun Reward Coupons for Positive Behavior,
revealed our new way to utilize the Content Word Wall,
and much more. The time has come for it all to go on sale! That’s right, it’s the Teachers pay Teacher Back to School Sale!

You know those items you’ve been drooling over for months and maybe even put them on your Wish List? They could be up to 20% off during this sale! The site wide (seller permitting) sale runs on Monday and Tuesday. However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve missed a sale and kicked myself over it, so we’re going to extend ours until Thursday! If you’ve never visited our store before, you should at least check out “Make Each Day Special.” It's one of our Top 10 End of the Year Traditions and it’s FREE! We use it every year in our classrooms and it’s got some great ideas you can use at home with your own kids as a way to celebrate the end of summer vacation.

What are your favorite ways to gear up for the beginning of the school year?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Whole Class Scrapbook Calendar

As part of our morning routine, my first graders and I always reflect on the previous day and what made it special. Sometimes we remember a fun craft or a visitor. Other days it might be a cool science experiment. Then 1 or 2 students volunteer to make a picture (draw or cut out of scraps) or we find a sticker to represent our special memory. Then we put the picture or sticker onto the proper square of a large desk calendar. Finally we add a quick comment or short phrase. When the month is over the page is full of exciting memories. We tear off and laminate each month so we can guarantee they will last for the year! My students love reminiscing on each month as it passes.