June is National Hunger Awareness Month, and while we in America undoubtedly have a hunger issue of our own, in today’s blog we are going to look at world hunger and what we can do as classroom teachers to allow our students to actively make a difference the lives of those around the world.
For young students, a book is always an entertaining and effective way to introduce a topic. Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag by Bob Dacey is perfect for children in grades 1–4. They will enjoy learning how the American flag came to be. This book tells how the flag has undergone many changes throughout the years. Another is F is for Flag by Wendy Cheyette Lewison, – this book reminds young children of the importance of the American flag in our society and how the stars and stripes symbolizes many things, and serves to unite us all! A question that arises among many classroom settings is who made the flag? Who Was Betsy Ross? By James Buckley this book tells about the patriotic seamstress who helped to create it! A great biography for for elementary classrooms. A great book to follow the American flag, would be Primary Explorers: Flags of the World by Sylvie Bednar. Kids will learn about the flags of other countries. They will be able to explore how many countries have flags with blue on them? Which country has a flag with a red leaf? Which flag has a red star? This book shows the flag of every country in the world, as well as flags used in signaling, sports and by long-ago pirates. Find out what flags mean, where they come from and how they are used.
To build from the knowledge the children have gained, they could each create a flag that would represent their family. They could write about what the colors mean and the picture or symbol they’ve used. This is a great way to get to know your students and a bit about their families at the beginning of the school year. Another idea is for the students to create a class flag that represents their school/classroom. Again they would write and share with the class why they choose the colors and symbols. To make it more interesting, the kids could vote to adopt one of the flags for their classroom. Together you could make a pledge to say along with your flag, including school rules, etiquette, respect and kindness. I know this is something that I will do at the beginning of my school year in September! I will probably connect it with our 9-11 remembrance.
Regardless how or when you introduce our American flag, just be sure to do it. I believe it is important to instill in our students what our flag represents and all those who have fought to protect it. Happy Flag Day!
School gardens are a wonderful and exciting way to make almost any classroom curriculum come alive and show "real-life" meaning to students as they learn! Students learn ecological principles and they help children make connections to Mother Earth. A garden can teach students responsibility, to respect nature and to learn to how to work together. Gardens have been proven to help students learn better and enhance test scores, and they can be an engaging way to meet Core Curriculum Content Standards.
Fairy tales are full of wonder, magic and enchantment. These stories have stood the test of time and are still relevant in our world and in our teaching of language arts today. These stories help children to find meaning and a message within the story as well as helping them to connect emotionally to a book. Fairy tales belong in the classroom for a number of reasons. Fairy tales engage a child’s unique imagination! Children are wonderful at imaginative play, story telling and creativity. Fairy tales help them to expand their imagination while introducing them to different far off lands, make-believe creatures and exciting characters. They teach children to think critically. They see the consequences of the characters' decisions and learn that what will happen to them depends on the choices they make. Something that they can take and apply to real life. The choices that are made by the characters and by them will affect the way something turns out. They teach children to deal with conflict with others and within themselves. In many of the fairy tales, children are the main characters who find the hero within themselves to overcome evil.
Did you know that 93% of adults in the United States read at or below the basic level needed to successfully navigate in our society! Yikes! For those of them who have children, they are responsible for their earliest language. Sadly, by the age of 3, a 30 million word gap has already been created. Reading to children, all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, is crucial. Reading aloud stimulates children’s imaginations, it expands their understanding of the world not to mention it develops their language and listening skills.
Who says that learning has to do be done inside a classroom?! There’s no reason learning the ABCs needs to be learned inside. In fact, there are lots of ways to encourage a love of reading and writing by spending time outdoors! Listed below are some of the ways that I have found to get kids outdoors and learning, some of which I have used with my own 10 and 7 year old kiddos.
2,4,6,8 Who do we appreciate?! Well, lots of people and it’s about time we said so! Teacher Appreciation week is a great time to reflect upon all those people who have made a difference in our lives and help others to recognize them too. We all have heroes who have helped to shape us and guide us to where we are and who we are now. As a class (teacher included), pause and find a way to show your appreciation for the difference they made in your life. There are many ways of doing this, here a few:
Teaching nursery rhymes have been a part of my primary classroom for many years now, it is how I begin each school year! Reciting nursery rhymes help to bring us closer together as a class in the beginning of the year, to share in the fun of reciting rhymes and singing together. Nursery rhymes are not just for toddlers, they can be used for children of all ages! They are important for young children because they can help to develop their language base. The rhyme and rhythm found in nursery rhymes help kids hear the sounds and syllables in words, this will help lead to stronger readers!
The language benefits of using nursery rhymes in the classroom are many. When children hear nursery rhymes, they are hearing the sounds that vowels and consonants make and how to put these together to create meaning. They learn to use rhythm, pitch, volume, inflection and animated voice. In nursery rhymes, children hear new words that they would not hear in everyday language (like fetch and pail in “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water”).
Math journaling is a great way to get insight into your students’ thoughts and problem solving strategies about math K-12! Learning how to do math is only one piece of the problem, they also must know how to articulate what they learning. Providing them with as many opportunities to do this as they have to learn the math, the better. This is where math journaling comes into play. Math journals are not the same as a math worksheet. Journals provide the student’s the ability to organize their thoughts, explain their reasoning and reflect on what they did correctly or what they would change next time. If this is your student’s first experience with math journaling, don’t get bent out of shape if they are not knocking your socks off. Give them time and encouragement, scaffold for them. The benefits of sticking with it will pay off. Math journaling provides children with:
Differentiation. They are able to work at their own ability level. For the younger children, some may still be at drawing pictures to explain their thinking while others may be writing out their thoughts.
It will allow for broader student learning while also allowing teachers to know what approach kids are taking to solve the problem and intervene if necessary.
Requires more than just remembering a sequence of steps.
Angela Watson of TheCornerstoneForTeachers had some great recommendations for math journal prompting. Here are some great places to begin.
-Prompts That Assess Attitudes: Students write about their personal thoughts and feelings about math. Examples: When it comes to math, I find it difficult to…, I love math because…, People who are good at math…, and When I study for a math test, I….
-Prompts That Assess Learning: Students write about what they’ve learned and reflect on what they know (and don’t know). Examples: The most important thing I learned today is…, I could use today’s skill in my real life when I…, Today I used math when…, At the end of this unit, I want to be able to…, and Some good test questions for this skill are….
-Prompts That Assess Process: Students explain how to solve problems or discuss a particular skill or strategy. Examples: Two ways to solve this problem are…, I knew my answer was right when…, Another strategy I could have used to solve this problem is…, If I missed a step in this problem, I could have…, and The most important part of solving this problem is to remember….Good luck getting started!
A must in every elementary classroom is a library! I have spent years building mine and I continue to scour garage sales, retired teacher sales, donation piles and of course purchasing books for my library. The one thing I dread about my library is the organization of it. I have tried genre, reading level and author. I just can’t seem to win. I believe I have done an awesome job of explaining it to my first grade students; I show them, I model how to put books back, I have even used bookmarks like in the school’s library to mark where they took their book from. All for nothing. The first couple weeks are great and it’s a downhill slide from there. I currently have books on my shelf in no particular order and it is driving me crazy! So, I searched and came up with some ways that teachers can organize their classroom library and keep it organized. I am determined to find one that works for me as well!
One idea that I really like was placing the books in baskets. On the front of the basket is a tag, ex. Animals and it is marked with a picture. Then, each of the books in that basket have a label on the cover that says “animals” and they have the corresponding picture. This makes it so quick and easy for the books to be identified as to where they belong with no confusion on which basket they came from! Even the kids could organize them if given the task! I love it!
An idea very similar to the one above, is to again use baskets and place a number on the outside. Then all of the books in that basket would be marked with the number 5. This would allow for organizing by level, genre, author, A.R. level. Again, this is easy for children to find the box that corresponds to the number on the book.
Another idea that really struck me was using cloth bins to place books into. The child would have a clip with their name on it. Every time they took a book from the bin, they would clip their name to the cloth handle so they could remember where to put their book back. This is a fun and unique way to organize the books and help kids keep them that way! You could take photos of each of the kids, laminate them and use those for their book clips. It would be easy to come up with other variations of this idea.
A couple other ideas that caught my attention was a bin with the teacher’s name on it filled with their favorite books. Another was a “Book Hospital”. I can’t even begin to count how many times my reading group has been interrupted over a damaged book that a child found (even though they know better than to interrupt reading groups for that)! Now they can place them in the hospital bin and you can get to those books when you have time. Overtime, these books will be well "loved" and no longer available. Eventually, my classroom will be all digital. Until then, I hope my students enjoy reading regardless of the format.
I’m excited to get my library organized and would love to hear any suggestions that you have! Happy reading!