Saturday, 7 November 2015

Bring in the Magic - Dead Word Cemetery

I have been looking for ways to bring MAGIC into my classroom! Every week I am trying to find a new way to SPICE IT UP!
This week, we created a dead word cemetery :)

I started the event a few days in advance by creating some anticipation. I sent the kids home with a simple invitation. It read: "Wear Black on Tuesday for a special surprise!" The kids were so excited. Everyday last week they were trying to guess what we could possibly be doing!

Next, I did a little mini room transformation. I only had around $15 to spend but I went to Dollarama and made it work :)

My shopping list:
  • 5 foam tombstones
  • 26 mini spider webs and spider rings
  • caution tape

I started by putting a small spider web and spider ring on each students' desk. The kids were thrilled that they would be able to take home a small souvenir of our day :)

Next I set up some tombstones around the room. The kids were so excited to see the "spooky" atmosphere!

When the kids came into the room, I had them all sit down and play with their spiders. Once everyone was ready, we started using this crazy eye ball!

I simply tossed this crazy bouncy ball around the room. Whoever caught the ball got to come up and choose their "Dead Word" from the basket. Each student picked a different word.

Once everyone had their word, we recorded our terms on our organizers and had an elbow partner conversation about what our "dead words" mean. You can find the organizer that we used here.

This activity is super easy to differentiate! Simply let your lower learners switch their words for easier ones. For example, one of my English Language Learners originally chose the word "answered". I simply switched it out for the word "big".

Once everyone has a word, it is time to get to work! My students used an online thesaurus for this activity, however it could also easily be done with a hard copy thesaurus.

I had my students complete the organizer by writing down 15-20 synonyms for their "dead" word. Once they were finished with the organizer, we got artsy :)

Each student got a tombstone and on it they wrote "Here lies the dead word _______". Then students wrote all of the synonyms for that word. Finally, we glued our tombstones onto black construction paper and added some spooky elements like spiders.

This activity took us around two hours to do. I have a really low group of grade 4/5 students this year so we took our time and really tried to solidify the learning.

The best part of this activity is that it has transferred to their writing! During writing workshop today, I had many students go up to the "Dead Word Cemetery" and take a peek.

Quick, Easy, Sight Word Storage

If your classroom is anything like mine, you have kids at all different levels! I teach grade 4/5 combined but I have kids working at a grade 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 level in English Language Arts. As you know, that can sometimes become slightly overwhelming!

Here is a quick trick to help you differentiate for your lowest students.

Each of my English Language Learners, working at a grade 1 level, has their own command hook stuck to their desk. This acts as storage for their sight words! I usually give them each around five words at a time. 

Anytime they want to do anything, they have to read me their sight words first. Want to go to the bathroom? Read me your sight words! Want to go get a drink of water? Read me your sight words!

It is working like a charm! Plus, when you add new words to the binder ring, the old ones are still there, which means constant revision!!

The best part is that they are easily accessible, but not stored in a spot where everyone can see. My students sometimes feel self conscious that they are working at a lower level. This helps them to learn at their level, without making them feel embarrassed. 

You can find a variety of Command Hooks on Amazon.

How do you differentiate your classroom to help all students learn? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments :)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Using Music to Energize, Engage, and get kids Excited about School!

Today I am linking up with Head Over Heels for Teaching to talk about a way that I spark student motivation!

Last week, I started something new in my classroom and I am LOVING it!

My students and I have started having a mini dance party every morning.

At my school, all of my kids wait outside until the bell rings, then I invite them into the classroom. As students enter the room, I have been playing fun, upbeat music. The kids LOVE dancing to the music as they come into the room. The best part is that it motivates them to be on time for school. Because if they are late, they miss the dance party!

At first, I was a bit hesitant to try out this idea because I thought that it might get my kids too excited. But it actually does the exact opposite. I have found that once the song ends, students are more ready to learn. My kids also know that by the time the song is over, they need to have their agendas open and book bins ready to go. This way, they have a task to complete while they dance :)

Some of our favourite songs to play include:
Happy - Pharrell Williams
Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction
Stereo Hearts - Gym Class Heroes
Good Feeling - Flo Rida
Best Day of My Life - American Authors
Love Runs Out- One Republic
Gagnam Style - Psy
We are Never Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift
Please Don't Stop the Music - Rhianna
Dynamite - Taio Cruz
Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts
I Got a Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
Twist and Shout - The Beatles
I Like to Move It -
Macarena - Los de Rios
YMCA - The Village People

Note: Always be sure to play the version with "clean lyrics". If you search the name of the song in Google with "clean lyrics" a classroom friendly version should pop up!

After a few mornings of dancing, the strangest thing happened... I realized that I was a happier teacher! Sometimes mornings can be super stressful, it is nice to take a few moments to sing and dance. Plus, when 26 kids are smiling up at you, how could you possibly be in a bad mood?

Do you have any tricks for starting the day off on the right foot?
I would love to hear about your ideas in the comments :)