I Have A Dream (Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activity)

I love Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of peace. It is a huge overwhelming goal, but when each of us makes an effort to be kinder, we will see results. Use this page as a springboard to start a class discussion about making the world a better place in the areas we each have influence.

This one is a half sheet for younger grades. Click here to download: I Have a Dream – Half Sheet

This one is a full sheet for upper grades and middle school. We don’t often get to discuss behavior on social media (and many youth don’t get this discussion at home), so take this opportunity! Click here to download: I Have a Dream – Full Sheet

 

I’ve also done some anti-bullying activities! Click here to see my post about an awesome one!

 

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New Resource! Character Building and Classroom Culture Materials

I recently discovered a new resource I want to share with you! It’s a blog called Come Follow Me FHE (FHE stands for “family home evening,” where your family spends time together at home). Each week, kindergarten teacher, Angie, shares a short lesson about a character-building type topic and includes printables and activity ideas aimed at children.

The lessons are based off of a manual called Come Follow Me, which focuses on the New Testament. If sharing ideas from a religious topic is inappropriate in your school, use the basic ideas of good character to strengthen your students. For example, her second week lesson focuses on the Beatitude. Rather than calling them the Beatitudes, call them “character bees” or say “we should be humble”. I firmly believe these Christian values are critical to good character development in children and will strengthen us as a society.

Here’s a freebie she sent me from week 2: bee coloring page

I also liked week one, with the theme “we are responsible for our own learning.” This. Yes! A thousand times yes!! I went to the manual (available here) and found this lesson idea (I’ve modified it to fit a classroom setting):

Matthew 13:1–23  One great way to help [your classroom] prepare to learn this year is to review the parable of the sower. Your [class] might enjoy looking at different kinds of ground near your home to visualize the types of ground described in the parable. What can we do to cultivate “good ground” in our [classroom]? (Matthew 13:8).

This analogy lends itself to all kinds of discussions. “Our mind is like a garden” or “plant good ideas in our heads” and the list goes on…

Here’s his you get the freebies: Subscribe to the Come Follow Me FHE weekly email. I don’t like to give out my email or subscribe to things (I already get so much email!), But this one is a simple once a week email sent on Tuesdays. I’ve tried it and I don’t get a bunch of useless junk emails. If you missed the previous week’s worth of lessons and activities, you can get them at Angie’s Etsy shop. She’s got cute display printables for each lesson if you like pretty things!

New Year Reflections Spinner

I found this in my files and thought I’d share. This would be a great activity for a family or staff party and there’s little prep needed. I’m not sure where this is from, so if it’s yours, please let me know so I can credit you. Thanks and happy new year!

Click here to download: New Year Reflections Spinner

Teacher Chat! (Rachel, 6th Grade Teacher)

Note: I was blessed to be able to teach 6th grade with Rachel. She always had great ideas and such a fun energy that made her a successful teacher!

What grade(s) do you teach/have you taught?

10 years of teaching 6th grade!

What’s one thing you do to prepare for/get through parent-teacher conferences?

I make sure I am prepared and organized. I have a folder for each student with their report card, a progress report that shows all of the assignments, test scores, and often a note with upcoming important dates. It’s good to have water close by since I do a lot of talking. Mentally, I remind myself that both I and the parents want what is best for the student, so we need to work to be a team.

What’s one of your favorite end-of-the-year activities to do with your class?

Kindergarten Day. We have one day where we do a lot of kindergarten-type activities (play doh, coloring, calendar, story time, centers, etc). Anything that involves writing or coloring is to be done with their non-dominant hand. I teach small groups how to use a combination lock in one of the centers so they will be able to (hopefully) open their lockers once they hit middle school in a few months.

What’s one thing you do to encourage good behavior in your class?

I have my students help create a list of desired rewards, then print them in a series of boxes, and cover them with scratch-off stickers (found on Amazon). If there is a certain behavior I’m trying to encourage (working quietly, turning in assignments, etc.), each time they do what is desired I give my students a letter to spell a word, or an initial in a set of boxes on the board that they have to complete to earn a reward. When they finish the word or fill the boxes, then I draw a name for who gets to scratch off one of the stickers to see what reward they get.

Tell us about one thing you wish you’d known when you first started teaching.

Do not grade every single little thing that is turned in. So much of it is practice, and it doesn’t need more than a glance and a mark that it was completed. I made myself crazy spending countless hours grading stuff that wasn’t necessary.

 

What gets you through a hard day?

A chat with someone who gets it, and sometimes a good hug. Teaching is hard, and it often seems to be getting harder with each younger group of kids. I just try to remember that I am doing my very best, I’m human, and if there is one kid (or parent) that is really hard to handle, I only have to deal with them for one school year.

Getting the Most Out of Ticket Jar

I received free products from Oriental Trading Company in exchange for sharing my thoughts on this blog.

As a teacher, I have found that the more positive praise I do, the less negative I have to deal with. One of the best systems I have used is my ticket jar system. Most people have probably heard of a form of this. I do ticket jar every Friday. It’s a good system for me because it can be individual incentive and group incentive. Here are 3 tips we’ve come up with:

All Roads Lead to Rome: At first it seems like I have tons of different positive incentives, table points, house points, class rock party points, class activity time points, individual tickets. It is true, but the beauty is that these “different” systems all come back to tickets. (That will make things so much easier on you as a teacher., I promise)

Here is an example: My students sit in tables. They earn points for their table by transitioning quickly, working well together during a project, all turning in certain assignments. At the end of the day, whichever table has the most points, each person gets 2 tickets.  (Table points convert to tickets!)

Another example: If I have an important paper that I need signed and brought back, I use tickets to bribe students to take it home, get it signed, and brought back. Works every time!

Let Ticket Jar Feed Itself: I encourage students to make donations of toys they don’t want or random items that their parents are willing to buy at the dollar store. When they make a donation, I give them a ticket just for donating. Also, I promise them that I will put their ticket back if I pull it on that item. Mindy didn’t do this her first year and ran out of cool prizes really fast. Then she had no budget (of course!) for replenishing it, so it didn’t have near the power to motivate her students.

Be Cheap: It can be expensive handing out things each week. Here are a few tips on that too:

  1. Get students to donate (as mentioned above).
  2. Collect “cool rocks” on all your vacations, hikings, adventures, whatever. I teach 6th grade and they are really into a neat rock!
  3. Oriental Trading Company: They have cheap bundles of items. You can buy big mixed packets or a specific item that you know will be a winner. I recently bought a huge bag of sticky hands for less than ten bucks and I am pretty sure it will last the whole year!
  4. Dollar Stores and Thrift Stores: Dollar stores often have packs of pencils or candy. Just figure out the unit price to decide if it’s a good deal! If you get something from a thrift store, make sure it is clean or better yet, still packaged!

Using Birthdays At School to Create Positive Classroom Culture

 

Birthdays can be distracting at school. But if you play your cards right, you can use birthdays to create a positive classroom culture. By focusing on positive characteristics of the birthday kid, you can allow for natural discussions on topics such as friendship, being polite, following directions, etc. I’ve got a simple page we use to acknowledge a birthday kid’s positive traits. I start by writing mine for the whole class to see (using the document camera). I talk about something the child does well, and praise them for it (subtly reminding the rest of the class of that expectation). Then I have each student complete the page for that student as well. I challenge them to use a vocab word (from the current week or past) in their writing and only let them do the picture AFTER they’re done writing.

Click here to download the full size PDF: I like ____ because

Click here to check out my other thoughts about celebrating birthdays at school.

Color Coding with Highlighter Tape

I received free products from Oriental Trading Company in exchange for sharing my thoughts on this blog.

I am teaching 6th grade and I have been assigned two different classes this year. It is pretty tricky to track each class and keep them straight. I decided to color code each class to help me keep track of them each.  I colored one red and one blue.  To help me easily keep track of papers, I use highlighter tape from the Oriental Trading Company. The tape is colored but you can see through it. I can write things and put the tape on top of it. It has been a life saver as I look at paperwork, class lists, and general color coding. The highlighter tape has four colors (red, blue, green, orange), so you could even use this tape to track ability grouping, or below, approaching, proficient, and advanced levels in any subject. I recommend this to any teacher who has multiple classes or tracks data.

Current Homework & Important Papers (CHIP) Folder (Guest Post)

Graphic3CHIP stands for “current homework and important papers.”

One pocket is for current homework that students have been assigned. The other pocket is for important papers (reference sheets that we use frequently, reading  passages that we are working on, group work info, etc.). Nothing else goes in this folder so that it doesn’t get cluttered. I use the boomerang folder for assignments that have been graded and papers for their parents and pretty much anything that is in their take home mailbox. This system has been helpful in keeping my students organized.

Click here to see the full-size PDF: chip-folder-cover-pdf.

About the author:
Lauralee specializes in dual immersion (English/Spanish) and math education. She currently teaches sixth grade. She enjoys travelling and spending time with family.