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!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

8 Ways to Get Students Excited About Reading

Are you looking for some ways to envigorate your students' desire to read, and get them excited to crack open some books?
I've come across several creative ways to get your class motivated to read.  Take a look and see which would be the best fit for your class:

  • Flashlight Friday, which is a great idea I saw on HeadOverHeels' blog.  She has bought small flashlights and finger flashlights at dollar stores and, as a treat, students may use them on Fridays with the lights turned off.  The classroom is aglow with students silently reading with their little flashlights hovering over their books.  How awesome!

  • I absolutely love this idea for a Book Raffle!  The BrownBag and 4thGradeFrolics had an excellent idea to promote new books in the classroom library.  They describe the new books to students, and then allow them to participate in a raffle to see who gets to read the books first.  What a great contest to get students salivating over new books!

  • Speaking of new books, 2ndisoutofthisworld has a "new book box" that showcases new books when they are introduced to the classroom.  Once the kids to have a chance to read the books, they are added to the regular classroom library and replaced by newer books.  Cool system!  The kids will know right where to look to find something fresh to read.

  • HeadOverHeels also has a great printout for having students sign books to recommend them to the rest of their classmates.  Few things are more motivating for young readers than to have them open a book to see several of their classmates read and enjoyed the same book.

  • Young students may really enjoy making a book buddy to read to during reading time.  These cute creations can be made by students or the teacher.  I've also seen teachers buy small, cheap stuffed dolls to use as book buddies.

  • One final suggestion from HeadOverHeels (great blog, btw!):  A Reading Counts Contest allows them to enter a drawing to win a great prize.  They earn tickets for the contest by, you guessed it, reading books!  The more books they read, the more they increase their chances to win.

  • Lastly, Scholastic features a helpful list so that you can suggest book types based on students' interest, personalities and the genres they like.

Hopefully, this list helps you discover a few ways to make reading and finding new books a fun, rewarding experience for your class!  :-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Three Math Activities for the Christmas Season

You can spread a little holiday cheer in your winter math lessons.  There are a ton of ideas out there to enliven math class during the last few days of the semester, and get everyone in the mood for Christmas.

  • Create Christmas trees in the cute coordinate graphic activity.  This teacher had a wonderful winter bulletin board full of these decorated Christmas trees and fireplaces.  It's a good way to have them practice graphing as well as making their own artwork.
  • How acute is students' spatial intelligence?  Test it out with this Snowflake Math Activity, which challenges them to anticipate which design will result from cuts on piece of paper.  It's taking the handy old paper snowflake technique and making it much more complex.
  • Speaking of snowflakes, have you ever heard of a 6-Sided Kirigami Snowflake?  MathCraft shows you how to make one.  They are signed to reflect the hexagonal symmetry of real snowflakes.  Picture tutorial included.

Have you seen more math lessons that are great for this time of year?

Christmas trees,holidays,special occasions,stars,ornaments,lights,decorative elements,traditional

Time-Telling Games

A few websites offer practice with telling time and reading clocks:

  • Students can Stop The Clock and record the time displayed. 
  • Can they tell the difference between two times?  Test their skills by playing another game on the same website. 
  • They can also play Bang on the Clock to stop the clock at the correct time.  Adjust the clock hands' speed to make it more challenging.