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5 Tips for dealing with Spring Fever

Spring fever got you down? Is your elementary class driving you crazy? Here are 5 tips for dealing with Spring Fever in the elementary classroom. Hang in there! Summer is on it’s way!

 

1. Routine, Routine, Routine

You know how in real estate they say it’s all about location?  Well, in elementary school, it’s all about routine, consistency and predictability.  Spring time is a great time for a lot of things; but not for rear-ranging your classroom or your routines.  If they have always picked their lunch choice before they hang up their bookbags, then by all means continue this right up to the last day .  Along with every other banal task you spent all that time drilling into their heads in the fall.  Trust me on this.

2. Stimulate the Senses

Children are stimulated by the sunlight, the longer days, the bright colors…the pollen.   They crave action and touch and sensory involvement more than any other time of the year.  Give them work that feeds into this need.  Color, cut, glue.  Use a variety of materials,  Play some music in the background. I’m not talking about just playing and doing art for the last month of school but instead of coloring a worksheet and labeling plant parts; why not give them construction paper and yarn and have them construct a plant and  cut out and glue on labels for all the parts.   Have a kidstube song about plants playing in the background.

3. Incorporate Movement

Don’t just read your sight words.  Snap, clap and tap them.  Do a GoNoodle as a segue activity.  Exit the lunchroom on the outside and walk around the building to your room instead of down the hallway.  Allow students to stand while completing independent work, as long as they are not disrupting others.

4. Show the Love

Children will be talking a lot about their next grade. Ask any first grader in April and they will tell you that they are “ALMOST a second grader”.  This is an exciting time but also anxiety producing for young children. Many of them spend more time with you than their mom and whether they admit it or not, whether they slip and say it or not, they all think of you in some way as a parent.  Make sure to reassure them of your affec-tion.  Tell them how much you will miss them next year. Tell them how much you love them.  How lucky you were to have them in your room.  Assure them that their next teacher will love them as much.  The old “Wait till next year!” attitude is not helpful.  Tell them how nice the next years teachers are; not how mean they are. That only feeds their insecurity and causes more disruptive behavior.

5. Add in Some Fun

The  last couple of months of school, I always like to add in something that this particular class loves. You’ve been with them all year, you know what they like.  It’s different every year.  Sometimes you have a class that just loves a read aloud.  If so, incorporate a time to read a chapter book to them.  I recently read aloud to some second graders and when my third and fourth graders saw the book in my cart (EIP, I roll room to room) they  begged me to read it to them.  So even the older elementary kids love this.   If they are super interested in animals; bring in a class pet for the last couple of months   If they love art, then plan some fun projects for those rainy spring days when you stay inside for recess.    art projects

 

How do you survive those last few weeks of school?  Share your ideas in the comments!

Field Trip Fun


My first grade team went on a great field trip today. I love it when you can have fun with your kids and meet standards at the same time. I teach in Georgia but we are only a little more than an hour’s drive from Greenville, South Carolina; home to The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. This interactive children’s museum is three floors of sciency fun!  It’s a perfect place to explore those co-requisite science standards that include Habits of Mind and the Nature of Science.  Students explore, observe and make connections about science concepts.  And it’s all so much fun!

The little guy in the seat next to me on the way home was determined NOT to fall asleep on the bus.  These pictures were taken over a total span of about 3 minutes.

5 things you will see in a standards based classroom

5 Things You Will See in a Standards-Based Classroom

I’ve been seeing these t-shirts on Pinterest that say “I teach children, not standards!”.  While I think I know what they mean by this; we also need to remember that it is a GOOD thing to teach the standards.  The standards are, after all, nothing more than a list of things that kids need to know and be able to do.   My t-shirt will say,  “I teach children all of the standards so they can be successful in school and in life”.  Ok, I might need to work on that.  Below are some things I have been working on to make my classroom standards-based.

  1. Activities are aligned to the VERB of the standard.  This one was a real eye-opener for me.  When I began writing units and really focusing on the verb of the standard, I was amazed at how often I looked at the “topic” and then picked activities related to that topic instead of focusing on exactly what the student needed to learn and be able to do.  For example,  when I taught plurals I spent a lot of time making sure they understood how to make a word plural, when to add -s or -es and how to sort singular and plural words.  However, the first grade standard says that students will be able to use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs.  So, although -s and -es, and being able to tell singular from plural was a prerequisite skill, my standard was directing me to teach students to use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs.    I have found it helpful to underline the verb of the standard when I am planning or writing materials because it helps me keep my focus on what I want students to be able to do.
  2. Student work on display reflects the standards.    The standard should be obvious when we see the student products.   Please don’t throw things at me, I’m not suggesting that we never do fun things just for the sake of fun.  Certainly not!  Young children need many experiences.  I think we should paint, work puzzles, and (dare I say it?) even play in the lower grades.  But when we see students actual work; it should reflect what they were meant to learn.    My friend, Sherri, hung some work in the hallway last week and the minute I saw it, I knew which standard she was teaching.  L3, “spell words with common spelling patterns”. (encoding)  Of course, since encoding and decoding are so closely related, she was probably touching on the standard RF3 also, “decode commonly spelled single syllable words”  The activity was a Build-A-Word of short a CVC words with the letters cut and pasted below each picture.  Were they “spelling with common spelling patterns”?  Yes!  We could see how they spelled them by cutting out each letter and pasting it in order beneath the picture.  She was using this product. short vowels
  3. Standards are displayed in a useful way.   Sometimes we teachers, get carried away with cutsey, artsy, displays.    For example, I once saw a classroom where the teacher had spent a lot of time cutting huge leaves (one for each standard) and then printed each standard and glued them onto the leaves.  Then she twisted butcher paper to make a “vine” that she wove around the top of her classroom walls, all 4 walls!  She attached the leaves to the vine and had all the standards up on her walls.   I saw another teacher who wrote two standards on the corner of her white board each day.  Which teacher was really using the standards?  Although the vine/leaf thing was attractive; it wasn’t functional.  She couldn’t point out the standards to the students and there were so many, they were nothing more than decoration.  I think sometimes we loose the focus of why we are doing what we do. Why display the standards?  So we can refer to them and show them to students.  So, lets put them in an easy to reach place and format.  I use a small pocket chart and slip kid-friendly standards into the pockets as I need them.  I use a pocket chart like this but instead of schedule cards, I use standards cards.pocket chartI bought the kid-friendly standards from Deanna Jump on TPT.  I bought the pocket chart on Amazon.
  4. Assessments are aligned to the standards.  Since I started teaching over 20 years ago, I have heard people say (with negative tone) “teaching the test”.  The thing is, we should be assessing what we teach.  What is the point of an assessment if not to check and see if students have learned what they needed to learn?    I think it’s important that we design our assessments to align with the standards.  How else can we know we have taught them effectively?
  5. Students know what they are learning and can dialogue about it.   In a standards-based classroom students are aware of their learning.   They know what they are “working” on.  It’s not a secret; it’s not a test.  We tell them what we want them to know.  We know that if they can talk about their learning, it will be more meaningful to them.  This is also how we get at those elusive Speaking an Listening standards, where students need to engage in conversation about grade level topics.

I would love to know what you’re doing in YOUR standards-based classroom.  Please share in the comments!

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