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What do your students need? Back to School Management Tip

 

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Click on the picture to be sent to rafflecopter for multiple chances to win a $50 gift card to tpt or amazing resources from over 30 great teacher authors.

 

I adore pinterest for classroom arrangements and decorations.  One year, I diligently searched and figured out how to make an enormous Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree.  Another year I decorated in Truffula trees and Dr. Suess themes.  My fellow teachers and parents raved about the room but I eventually began to ask the question of what the students actually thought of their classroom.  Their answers surprised me and changed the way I both set up my classroom and ran it for the rest of the year.

If I just asked, “Do you like this room?” They answered, ” Yes” until one brave soul said, “It is really pretty but we didn’t make it so it doesn’t feel like our classroom.”  That is a huge statement.  I realized that even though I had strived to have a student centered classroom, I had made a beautiful-to-the-adult-eye classroom and not necessarily what my students needed.

To change the classroom, I started asking lots of questions.  “Do you like it when the walls have lots of colors?  How do you like the lights in the classroom; should we use the light from the windows only or the overhead lights? What kind of areas should we have in our classroom?”  This opened up a whole new world of information to me.  My students didn’t all have the same opinions so we would survey them and then talk about the results.  How can we make these preferences work for everyone?

Getting to know me learning edition (2)

Examples of questions to survey your students on.

What ended up happening was that the class as a whole began to develop empathy and understanding for the different preferences or needs that were in the classroom.  We also began to mix up our day, using the light from the windows for writer’s workshop and listening to background music while we did math.  It also made the discussion of how to make our classroom community the best that it could be a regular part of our classroom culture.  Kids felt free to talk about things that bothered them and then the other students would work on solutions for them.

My room may not look as pinterest ready now, though sometimes the students hit on an idea that we can go all out for, but I’ve gained a caring, peaceful class culture that I would never change.  Parents often tell me that their students feel safe and cared for by both me and their peers.  I couldn’t ask for a better learning environment than that.

You can ask your students a question a day or you can take some class sessions and let them survey their peers.  This is a freebie that lets kids tell you about their learning preferences.  It also includes some follow up activities to let them tally the results of the class as a whole and then form class agreements based on that information.  Just click on the picture below.

Back to School

Little Vikings

Follow the blog hop to get more beginning of the year classroom management and organization ideas.  Keep following through all the blogs – there are lots of brillant ideas being shared!

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Back to School

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Meaning: You are about to leave the summer holidays. This is typical of a European road sign that lets drivers know they are leaving a city.

Summer is officially winding down and teachers are starting to slowly turn their minds to the next school year.  I’m scheduled to have  a baby on the first official day back to school, but I can’t stop the ritual of trying to figure out what would work best in my classroom this year.  I’ve been tasked by my colleagues to use my baby’s sleeping times as possible times to create resources for them.  🙂   I’ve got a list of about 30 roleplays, activities, units, etc.  Somehow, I think I won’t accomplish them all.

I did spend some sleepless nights creating an Early Years Classroom Decor Pack that has word wall headers, number posters, 6 months of calendar tiles, visuals for color words, days of the week, months of the year and more.  It is all of the basics I’ve always needed in a lower elementary classroom.  You can pick it up at 50% off for another week.

BTS cover early years

Plus, I’m posting a teacher link up with lots of great Back to School resources at great prices.  Get them now or wishlist them so you are ready for tpt’s inevitable back to school sale.

Adventures in Elementary

Finally, I want to give a shout- out to the amazing Anya.  She not only created the graphics for this blog but she drew my store logo.  She deciced that since we’re having a baby, the graphic needs to be redesigned to show all three kids.  Not only did she do that, but she added a custom onesie.  Such a nice gesture, my heart is full.

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I hope your enjoying the last bits of your summer and are happily gearing up for the great year we have ahead of us!

Little Vikings

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Fair vs. Equal

If there are any words I’ve come to dread as a parent or a teacher, “It’s not fair!” is the phrase I dread the most.  It is an extremely hard phrase to reason with.  My husband tells me that when he was a child, he and his brother used to put their drinks side by side every night so they could guarantee that they both had gotten the exact same amount of juice as the other.  My kids try to do the same with popcorn and my students try it with seemingly everything.

The funny thing about these two words is that even though kids (and sometimes school systems) treat them like synonyms; they are not.

What is equal? 

As humans we want to make sure that we are getting everything that we are entitled to.  This sometimes means that if we see someone getting “more” than us, we want to remedy that situation by either getting more ourselves or bringing them down to our level.  In the classroom this pops up with kids when you differentiate work, give small group teacher time, or basically any time that kids can see a discrepancy between their experience and another’s experience.  No classroom functions well if every student gets exactly the same everything.  It doesn’t work because their needs are more varied than making everything equal can account for.

What is fair? 

When I talk to kids, I often make an analogy about a giraffe and a caterpillar.  In this scenario both the giraffe and the caterpillar live in the same place and they both eat leaves.  The ruler of the town decided that there should be a set number of leaves for each animal, so that the town doesn’t run out of leaves.  The ruler decides to divide the leaves equally and gives the caterpillar and the giraffe the same amount of leaves.  I then stop and ask, “Is this fair?”

The kids invariably shout, “NO!” They recognize the innately different needs in terms of amount of leaves between a giraffe and a caterpillar.  I then set them brainstorming how else the leaves could be divided if dividing them equally isn’t fair.  There are usually lots of discussions about this and quite often I’ve had kids decide to get paper or whiteboards to make diagrams  In the end we always come to a solution that takes into account that a giraffe needs more leaves than a caterpillar does to survive.  Also if a caterpillar has too many leaves they could get sick or go to waste.  We then try to sum up our ideas about fair and equal.  Sometimes we’ve said that fair doesn’t mean equal and other times we’ve said that fair is giving each person what they need.  

fair vs equal

When we’ve made our own definition of fair, we bring it back to the classroom.  So is it a good idea to make sure that we always do exactly the same thing for every person?  They now quickly point out some of the different needs they may have or others may have.  I then remind them of the definition that “fair is giving each person what they need”.  I then give them opportunity to think of times in the classroom that things might be different for different people but, everyone is getting what they need.

I have this discussion early in the year, every year and it works.  Since I’ve started using it, I’ve noticed that my students are more aware of their own needs and the needs of others.  I also display a poster that either uses their definition of fair that year or my standard definition.  I’ve included three posters that you can use with your class.  Just click on the image and it will send you to my tpt store.

Fair is not equal

Click on the picture to download.

Little Vikings

 

 

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Who Goes First?

Every year I have at least one student who is obsessed with being first (in games, in line, first to be done with assignments, etc.) and this always seems to trickle down to the rest of the class.  8

My literacy and math times rely on stations or centers so I need students to be independent.  Every year I slowly introduce the behaviors expected while working in the centers and we roleplay both what appropriate and inappropriate behavior might look like.  This year, there were a lot of very tense discussions between students about who would go first in centers that involved a game.  Eventually, based on my students’ suggestions, I made a “Who Goes First?” box.  At the beginning of the day I drew out a card and whoever in the group met the details of the card, they would go first.

Those tense discussions?  They became non-existent.  It worked so well that it spread to other classrooms.  I even had my co-teacher steal my box so she could use it when I wasn’t teaching.  The key was that there were so many possibilities that it was always up for grabs who would be first that day.  (Examples include: the person with the longest thumb, the person with the shortest first name, the person who has a cat at home, the youngest, etc.)

who goes first

You can pick it up as a flash freebie  for the next few days in my tpt store and see your students’ tense discussions drop dramatically.  🙂

Little Vikings

 

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Build a dinosaur skeleton from toilet paper rolls

build a dino skeletonOur PYP 1 class has an amazing unit on extinction.  They inquire into dinosaurs, fossils, and why things that used to be on Earth aren’t anymore.   We typically take a trip to the local natural history museum in Copenhagen so that the kids can touch skulls, see actual dino bones, and interact with fossils in person.  This year, Europe has a refugee crisis.  Which suddenly means that going across the bridge from Sweden to Denmark became an insurmountable obstacle of needing every child’s passport!

museum 1We wanted to duplicate the museum experience, which is what made us create the paleontology museum role play.  We figured out how to make fossils with salt dough but how would we get the huge skeletons?  Build one

Step 1) collect a million toilet paper rolls. Seriously, you’ll need a lot

Step 2) take a large piece of chart paper (or several taped together) and draw a rough outline of the Dino’s skeleton from one side

build a dino

Step 3) place yarn or strong string on the backbone of your drawing.

Step 4) have the kids place toilet paper rolls on the lines you’ve made for rib cages, legs and arms   On the backbone and tail they can start stringing the the rolls onto the string. (i.e the string is inside the rolls and then they tape the rolls together). We discovered that if you use masking tape, you will use mountains of tape. Go for duct tape if you can.

dino skeleton making

Step 5) once you have created a backbone and one side of the rib cage, use more string to hang your dino up. (You will probably have cheering children at this point.)

Step 6) talk about symmetry – build a duplicate rib cage so you have two of each rib, arm, leg, etc.  The kids love this step.

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Step 7) with rolled up paper create the claws/fingers and toes and attach to your arms and legs

Step 8) name your dino.  Pictured here is “Blood Roar”.  Proudly display in your museum.

Zahra (banner)Little Vikings