Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Hello to the lovely ladies from Providence.  Thank you for visiting the site, and for meeting with me yesterday.  I hope to hear from you soon.  :-)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Help Your Students Become "Word Nerds"


 Wouldn't we want all of our students to not only build their vocabulary but LOVE to do so?  An awesome book I saw recommended by 4thGradeFrolics and LookingfromThirdtoFourth is called Word Nerds , and it is teeming with ideas to accomplish this very thing.  I've enjoyed gleaning ideas from the book!

  • 4thGradeFrolics showcases how her students use the "vocabulary lanyards" activity to practice learning new words and definitions, discovering antonyms and synonyms, etc.  The book has several activities for small groups and the whole class to practice using their words in order to commit them to memory.  What I love is that most of the activities are engaging and require the students to think and talk to one another, making connections about what they're learning.
  • Check out AllensTeachingFiles for a list of several small and whole group activities found within the book, everything from charades to board games to illustrations.
  • This is an excellent Word Nerd classroom display that helps students keep track of the new words they've come across in their reading.
  • Of course, there are tons of ideas in the book itself, like throwing a Pirate Party, A game of Deal or No Deal, creating vocabulary links, crystal ball words and much more.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Morning Meeting


Hi, all!

I wanted to share what I've encountered recently, which I think is a FANTASTIC idea.  It's called "morning meeting."

Some of you are probably familiar, especially if you teach PreK-2.  I certainly led a lot of morning meetings when I subbed those grades.  For some reason, it never dawned on me that, with a few modifications, a "morning meeting" routine would also be a great addition for upper-grade classrooms.

Perusing The Morning Meeting Book and looking at some teachers discuss morning meeting have convinced me to look into adding the routine to my own classroom.

What is morning meeting?  Good question.  Responsive Classroom has a good description that explains morning meetings are daily (although some teachers, especially in middle grades, opt for less frequent meetings) gatherings in one section of the classroom where teachers lead students in an assortment of activities.  The activities can range from team-building exercises, sharing, fun wordplay, brainteasers, journaling and curriculum review or preview.  Another usual component at the beginning is a greeting exercise, which helps with social skills.

Why do I like it?  As Edutopia explains, the morning meeting is designed to provide students with meaningful interactions to "set the tone for respectful learning, establish a climate of trust... and support social, emotional and academic learning."  Isn't that awesome?

Teachers of all grade levels use morning meeting and swear by it.  Everyone I've heard who uses morning meeting says their class loves it, considers it an essential part of their procedures, and believes it fosters good will in the classroom.  It promotes respect and builds a real sense of community, which I admire greatly.  I checked out a lot of reviews of this routine on various blogs and message boards, and so many teachers talk about how it improved the atmosphere of the classroom so much that it's worth spending the few minutes of the day, no matter how the rest of the days' teaching has to be adjusted.

One of the best testimonies about the efficacy of this routine is my own.  I remember subbing for a fifth grade classroom years ago, and I remember how they knew to sit on a carpet.  They performed a greeting, then went around and shared before we played a game of Buzz (the first time I saw it done!) to practice common multiples.  The thing I remember most was that the atmosphere in the class felt... insulated.  The students seemed close and very committed to the idea of their fellow students as teammates and the classroom itself as a culture on its own.  It's hard to explain but it's apparent when you're an outsider visiting a class like this.  I was struck by it and thought, "Wow, this teacher must be doing something special to have her class behave this way!" 

It turns out this must have been my first experience with morning meeting in the upper-grades.  That must have been the thing that made the classroom function in a way that impressed me.  I remember one other teacher I subbed for over a few years also is one I could point to for having that "insulated" feeling in her classes and she, too, used morning meeting.  Neither of the classes called the routine morning meeting, but I can identify it now by its practices.  Just knowning that this is something I can use for my own students is really encouraging for me so that I can create a classroom culture of respect and community.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekly Homework Packets

Hi, everyone!  I just wanted to discuss an interesting method of collecting homework that I think I may adopt.  Instead of being swamped with papers and worksheets on a daily basis, some teachers have opted for what some consider a simpler choice:  weekly homework packets.

A few reasons I like the idea:
  • As mentioned, it decreases the amount of loose homework papers collected.  The amount of homework doesn't change, but it's much easier to collect and keep track of one packet from each student once a week than several sheets each day.  Homework packets are typically handed out on Monday and expected back by Friday, although there are variations of this.
  • Students can work at their own pace.  If they want to work ahead, they can.  If they skip a day, they can as long as it's all completed by the end of the week.  If they want to not do homework all week until Thursday night before turning it in, they can but will hopefully soon realize this is not the best idea.  This is a useful took for students to learn time management.  When you think about it, upper-grade classes in middle school and high school often already operate this way.  It's certainly the standard in college.  Why not start teaching them this work management skill earlier?
  • Families often appreciate the freedom this method affords.  Kids can have practice on Monday afternoons or Bible study on Wednesday evenings without having to stay up nightly to do homework due the next day.  They can adjust how much homework they do to fit their schedules a little easier.
Of course, there are some drawbacks:
  • Students only get one shot to turn in their homework when it's due.  If they forget it at home, they've left home a week's worth of work instead of just one day's work.  That can lead to other complications when it comes to grading, consequences for missed work, etc.
How do you feel about weekly homework packets?  I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and will definitely be testing this method out!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Fun Classroom Review Games

If you're like me, you're always looking for fun games to review material with students.  My favorites (like Scoot) are games that allow you to review almost any concept or subject, so they can be used again and again throughout each school year.  Having an arsenal of games to keep things fresh for students is a good way to get them excited about preparing for assessment.

That's why I liked these two review games that are both fun and simple to implement for all subjects and grade levels:

  • Joy in the Journey discusses the creation and evolution of a classroom game called "Silent Ball."  Yep, that's right.  A silent review game.  A ball is tossed between students who are seated on their desks.  If they catch it, they are given a vocabulary word to define, math fact or history question to answer, etc.  If they are correct, they toss to the next person.  If they miss the answer, they sit down and are out.  If the ball is tossed poorly so that the next person cannot possibly catch it, the tosser sits and is out.  If the person being thrown the ball misses the catch, they are out.  Also, if anyone speaks except when answering a question, they are out!  Hence, the silent part of Silent Ball.  This review game gets kids active and using kinesthetic learning while also exercising their mental muscles.
  • This game is one mentioned by some teachers who said their class loved it so much, it was a great motivation tool.  I hadn't heard of it before and went to youtube to see it performed.  It's called Mind Soccer.  It appears to be associated with the Whole Brain Teaching method.  All you need is a class split into two teams, and a board to keep score.   You mimic Family Feud and soccer, basically, as you ask the teams review questions.  Teams are penalized for missing answers or taking too long to respond, which gives the other team a chance to steal points.  Watch these two classes (split in the time-honored rivalry of boys against girls) get loud and excited about reviewing their lessons with this game:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Best Games: Once Upon a Time

First up in the Best Games for the Classroom Series, we have Once Upon a Time, a card game that has been popular for a long time.  In fact, it won awards for being such a great game, including a Parent's Choice Award last year.  It inspires the imagination and can be a great way to help students hone writing skills, understand story elements, and explore the fantasy genre.

The object of the game is to use a deck of cards, each showing a story element, to collaboratively tell a story with the rest of the players.  You want to be the first to get rid of all your cards, but you have to do so by describing a story element using the cards in your possession.  At various times, other players can interrupt the narrative and continue it themselves, trying to get rid of their own cards.  Players have to think fast and rely not only on their knowledge of storytelling and fairy tales, but also their own ingenuity to win.  Each player has one card with a possible "ending" to the story, so each player is jostling to try to manipulate the story to their own end and get rid of their cards first.  

From the site:

"Once Upon a Time requires attention and problem solving abilities as the players try to figure out when they might be able to interrupt the current storyteller. It also draws upon players' creativity and imagination as they attempt to expand the plot and develop characters."
Check out the publisher's list of how the game can be useful for students.

The game can get silly and fun, as seen in the video below.  There are also versions of the game where players can make their own deck with elements they choose and draw themselves.  Students can add their own favorite characters, original characters or silly elements to that type of deck.  

The storytelling possibilities are endless with this game.  Watch below to see how players have to think, create a story, and cleverly find ways to use the story elements in their hand:

New Series: Best Games for the Classroom

It's no secret that I love games.  I've posted about several throughout the blog, whether they are original games or adaptations of popular games.  Either way, games are a great way to help students learn and practice skills.

Many students love the occasional opportunity to play games straight off the shelves.  In a classroom setting, it's a good idea to use these games to reinforce what they're learning.

That's why the latest series on the blog will deal with games and ones I recommend to help students think, ponder, practice and use skills we want to see them show all the time.  Games are a great way for kids to show "the ability to think through and solve complex problems, or interact critically through language or media."

Stay tuned!