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

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.

Best Practices for Teaching Students with ADHD (Guest Post)

ADHD tips stickerA classroom is a microcosm of society, and just like in any society, there are outliers who stand apart from the majority. As a teacher, you strive to keep your classroom fair and develop your lesson plans to suit the various spectrums of learning. At some point, you may encounter a student with ADHD who poses a challenge for your standard classroom management techniques and your carefully curated curriculum. A student with ADHD has the brainpower for learning, however their unique brain composition makes it difficult for them to focus on the subject matter. The more you understand this condition, the more you can help your student.

What Is ADHD?

About 11 percent (6.4 million) of school-aged children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetime. Boys have a higher ADHD diagnosis rate than girls, and the average age of diagnosis is at 7 years of age. Make sure you know the signs of ADHD so you can recognize when a kid may need special help.

The symptoms of ADHD are grouped into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Behavioral signs related with inattention include: easily distracted, doesn’t follow directions, fails to finish tasks, has difficulty with organization. Hyperactivity can manifest itself behaviorally as excessive talking, always moving, difficulty with volume control, inability to stay seated and fidgeting. Impulsivity includes blurting of answers, unable to wait for his or her turn and interruption of others.

Classroom Challenges

A child with ADHD will cause interruption within the classroom and may have difficulty in the completion of their individual tasks. You must anticipate their behavior and develop appropriate reactions that will keep the mood positive, help the child with ADHD and keep your entire class on track with their learning. In the classroom, children with ADHD may struggle with long-term projects, group work, difficult math equations, reading and writing. Regardless of your ADHD student’s struggles, make sure you never shame him for his behavior, but instead encourage him or her towards academic success.

Have a brief conference with the ADHD student and come up with a secret code or signal for when he or she is distracting the class and must re-focus his attention, like a hand signal or a light shoulder tap. Don’t over-do the signals; refrain from pointing out every instance when he or she is off task and only the moments when his or her behavior is a distraction for the whole class.

How You Can Help

Create classroom accommodations for your students with ADHD. Seating assignment can help limit distractions in the classroom. Make sure they are seated away from the windows and the door, put them near your desk and organize the classroom desk formation in rows, rather than table groups. Deliver task instructions in a clear and concise way. Write on the board step-by-step instructions that the students can easily follow and provide other visuals like charts and pictures.

Allow writing assignments to be completed on a computer, rather than in handwriting. A student with ADHD often thinks faster than he or she can write, which can result in messy handwriting and a loss of cohesive thought. Utilize writing prompt tools to help the student practice their composition skills. Help the student with his or her organization and provide the entire class with five to 10 minutes of desk organization and cleaning time at the end of the day.

Work one-on-one with your ADHD students and come up with a special organization system for them. A strong organizational system may include color coding, a three-subject notebook or three-ring binder, and a planner where he or she can write down important assignments and due dates.

About the author: Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher with decades of experience. Today, she is a proud grandmom and mentor to teachers in her local public school system. She and a fellow retired teacher created TeacherSpark.org to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

 

Learning Styles Survey

Here’s one of my recent printables over at We Are Teachers! It’ll be great for your first week of school when you’re learning about your new students and planning how you can create the best learning environment for them. Click here to go to my post.

How Do You Work Best preview

 

Online Teaching Conference 2015

I recently attended another conference, the Online Teaching Conference. Held at the San Diego Convention Center, it covered a wide variety of topics from increasing participation in online classes to free tech tools to group work in distance education classes. I’m assuming that most teachers in America (of the world, for that matter) don’t teach courses exclusively online. However, many of the ideas presented there are applicable to any teaching arena.

Online Teaching Conference

The topic I found the most interesting was the conversation about group work.  One of the suggestions was to encourage the group to not only do an “ice breaker” at the start of their team experience, but to also explore what roles each member would have in the group. After the students discuss roles, teachers can have the group decide on group rules and expectations.  This is especially important for a long-term project.

One of the teachers presenting talked about how they have their students turn in a “group expectations” page detailing what the group expected of its members. The presenter said that while they give the group a grade for turning in the page, they don’t necessarily grade the group on how closely they actually stick to their original expectations. This is often because the students set unrealistic expectations for the group. On a number of assignments, the presenter said he asks his students to revise their expectations document part-way through the project so they can make their guidelines more realistic. The presenter indicated that the times when he provides this kind of group support to his students, the groups usually do better, produce higher quality projects and get along better.

This idea makes so much sense! But, I had never thought of it! Learning how to function in a group (that you can’t always choose) is an essential skill in today’s world, and we as teachers can do a lot to help teach our students how to be a good group members.

What have you learned about working with groups (in your experience as a student or as a teacher)? Comment below!