Monday, September 3, 2012

A Few Week 1 Activities

Well, I am pleased to announce that Week 1 went, overall, very smoothly!  What I love about the fresh, new start of every new school year is that you get to learn from your mistakes or the things you didn't like and try to fix them.  I started a few things much earlier this year, I'm employing Whole Brain Teaching, and my new babies are really responding.  I'm so proud of them & their behavior.  To toot my own horn, I have been getting a few compliments from my coworkers as well.  Most excitingly, I am introducing the WBT style to a few coworkers as well and they are very intrigued - especially by how well it seems to be working already.  I tell ya, people, try this out if you're not yet!!

I'm doing baby steps - I introduced the 5 rules (tweaked number 3 at my teammate's very wise suggestion), Hands & Eyes, Class-Yes, and Teacher v. Student scoreboard.  Kids seem to love it all so far - especially the opportunity to be creepy with hands & eyes :)

Now, I've mentioned a few times my desire to take some card games and turn them into math facts games.  I am most pleased to announce that I have already implemented them!!  At the get, my class did not sound as wildly excited as I'd hoped.  However, at the end of the lesson, as they were finishing up....lo and behold!  The decks slowly but surely disappeared off of my table!  I was SO excited that I took some pictures!  Here is one I took without any students.   This pair is playing Trash with 4s.

In hindsight, I would like to fix my cards in a few ways - for convenience & aesthetics.  One, like a real deck of cards, I want to put the facts so that you can read them no matter how it's turned.  Two - and I can't believe I forgot to do this!! - I would print it on scrapbook paper next time so that the backs are cuter.  So mad I didn't.  Look how blah those are! :(  Unbelievable.  Three, I need to write the numbers on the back (2s, 3s, 4s, etc) just so that if, heaven forbid, they ever get mixed up then the kids can sort it with more ease.

If this intrigues anyone, let me know! I am more than happy to share this!  And learn from my mistakes! I was far too eager and printed everything out and made 2 copies on cardstock.  Foolish. :(

The other notable thing we did in math that I'd like to share is about rounding!  In week 1, our goal this year was to review some topics that are important later on in the year.  I focused on rounding, and managed to find on Google this brilliant idea where students would go "grocery shopping" and round out the total - just like one would in real life!!  And as luck would have it, I had in my car an ad for Safeway.  As luck would still have it, it also came with a funny story about how I grabbed it because I was mad I went shopping, saw BOGO chicken, got charged for both, but didn't argue it after pointing it out and getting shut down.  I lamented to my students about how I grabbed it to check, but was chagrined to see it wasn't in the meat I was wrong.

Then wouldn't you know it?! I handed out their copies so they could go shopping, and one of my babies cried out, "It's right here!!" LO. AND. BEHOLD!  There, in black in white: Chicken: BOGO!  I was extremely pleased!  I told him I'd go get my money back haha and thanked him profusely.  Sadly, I left the ad at school, and now it's prooooobably too late, but I'll still try. :)  It was real cute. Anyway, here's two of my cherubs pouring over the ad, trying to decide which 5 to put on their shopping list.

The activity seemed to be a hit!! One of my babies even asked me if I could make it a center!  Why, yes, darling...I most certainly can and will!  I love the love of learning! :)  I can't get over how sweet this group is so far. So eager to learn, so grateful! Bless their wonderful previous teachers and parents for ingraining this in them.

For my homeroom, we did 2 things that I love and want to share with you.  As our "get to know you" activity, I had them anonymously write 3-5 facts they were willing to share with the class.  Once everyone had done that, I told them to crumple the card.  You should've seen their sweet faces! They absolutely dropped.  I must admit it made me laugh.  I assured them we would still share - so please don't go ripping it up or anything!  We got in a circle with our crumpled facts and for 1 minute, had a SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!!  After 1 minute, we each picked one up and went around in a circle, read it, and guessed who the card belonged to.  It went perfectly, which was a relief.  Both times I did it last year we lost a few. :(  And wouldn't you know it - the same kid lost his both times.  I felt just terrible!  I learned my lesson though and told this bunch to throw softly and to feet, not people.  I thought it would be less fun, but my goodness, they were SO excited by it!

Lastly, we read a really sweet picture book, Daft Bat.  It had a really great lesson in it about seeing things from someone else's perspective before rushing to judge them.  It was so, so cute and we LOVED the ending!  I'm going to resolve to read more picture books with lessons this year.  My next planned book is one about how words and actions hurt even if you apologize.  I found this real cute activity last year... if you haven't heard of it, just give me til next week! I'm hoping to do it Thursday.

I'd like to close with two brief anecdotes from my last year's babies.  I was inspired by Mrs. H's post about the effect we have on our students.

  1. One of my current darlings shared with me that he was hanging out with several of my old boys and passed along that they missed 5th grade & having me as their teacher.  Cue heartmelt! :]  I wrote them a note telling them I miss them, I love them, to remember our talks and make me proud, and to come visit me ANYTIME - for fun or for homework help.  Current student handed it to them through the window of his bus and reported back that they were so excited ("REALLY?!") and swore to try and come back soon.  Tsk.  That warmed my heart so, so much.  I offered to this group in particular to come to my classroom after school to work on homework and I remember how excited that idea made them.  They couldn't wait.  Mind you, this was the beginning of the school year, and by the end they just couldn't WAIT to be out my door.  Too cool and all that lol.  It's just so ... wonderful, for lack of better adjectives, to hear that from them.
  2. One of my former math students has been keeping on-and-off contact with me about his summer homework.  Let's just say that the boy lost it and we went back and forth for two months while I was at camp before I finally got my vacation and personally delivered another copy to his home lol.  Well, I sent him another message hoping that middle school was going well and that if he ever needed ANYTHING to let me know and I would be more than happy to help.  He replied back that he couldn't believe he was saying this, but he missed me.

I love my boys.  I miss my boys.  Sigh!  Does it ever get easier to say goodbye to your old students?  I need to know.  My teammate made a comment earlier last week that was soooo true after I shared that I told my class they were my babies and I was like their school mama.  He said he told them, "You know, after a year together, I really grow attached to you.  By the end of that year, I love you.  We really are a family."  (Our school really pushes the idea that we're all family.)

I know I have to let them continue to grow without me and become the strong, independent, successful human beings I began to see flourish last year... but it's hard.  They have such a profound effect on my life it's almost impossible to let them go.  It's surreal for me this year, as it's my first year teaching the same grade in the same room, to not have my old group.  I can still see one of my old students sitting out on the bench outside my room and waving good morning to him.  Then right when that clock strikes 9, hearing him greet me cheerily before I see him and his wide, bright smile.  That's how each of my mornings started, without fail.  It's almost wrong to not start it with him.

Anyway, my point, before I got off track and got all weepily emotional was... they have such a profound effect on my life.  It's always such a... joy... to see it return back to me in the "I miss you"s and the phone calls and emails trickle in slowly with this new school year.  Making a difference is why I got into this career path.  Those little things are the best things my babies could ever do for me.

With that aside, I look forward to this new journey with my new bunch.  I hope you all are having an equally amazing time with your new crews!

Now I'm off to go "shopping"!  Would you believe it?  My school won some money to spend on our classrooms!! First on my list is an iPad or two! :)  I don't know if that's feasible, given the roadblocks I seem to be coming up against left and right with technology....but fingers crossed!

Til next time!

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