Leading up to the holidays, I wanted to create a fun school wide reading activity to keep students engaged right up until break. It’s realllllllly tempting to want to reach for a fun movie to watch or other ‘fluff’ activities in the last few days, but I’ve found that more often than not, this backfires. You want them to watch a movie so you can quietly get some work done (and not have to take any of it home for the holidays!), but they are full of energy and antsy, or completely bored into a coma because they are watching movies in every.single.class.
I created this quick little video, as well as a google form, which was really easy to push out to students via email or google classroom. They simply have to watch the video, then submit their response in google forms.
This is the message I emailed out to my colleagues: “Reading activity for ALL grades and subjects – here is a link to a school-wide reading activity that will be available for the next 2 weeks. This could be a great option for students who are ‘done,’ for the To Do List workday, for a pinch-hit or sub day activity, etc. All are invited to participate in ANY class! No prep required, just share the link with students (via email or Google classroom)”
The video was really easy to make – I just used Quicktime to record an audio file (on my desktop as “incoming message”) of just me talking. Then I used Quicktime again to do a screen recording, in which I played the audio recording (to give it that cool tin can sound). Just be sure to have all the pictures and tabs loaded that you’ll need. The final unnecessary touch was importing into iMovie to add the explosion and color screen in the end. From iMovie, you can upload directly to youtube. The whole thing took me about an hour.
What I like about this activity is that it encourages students to do some self-directed research. They can spend as much or as little time on Newsela looking around as they need. They get to practice their citation skills (article title) and summary skills. They also have to provide a pretty thorough argument as to why the article they chose should be widely read by our entire student body. And, the article they chose could have a real impact at our school! There will be a Part Two of this activity, once we’ve selected the top 3 student submissions (this part is still in the works). Students will have a chance to promote their own topics of interest and engage the whole school in a grass roots kind of way. Yay reading with a purpose!
If you are looking for some other meaningful, engaging, and powerful activities to do leading up to Winter Break, I highly recommend this article by John Spencer. Students are craving something engaging and meaningful to get them through these long days before a much needed break!
I’d love to hear what you are doing in your classrooms in these next 2 weeks. Please let me know in the comments!
Tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’s birthday AND Read Across America Day! We have big plans to celebrate in 7th grade.
Today, we read a biography about Dr. Seuss and answered some text-based questions. I purchased this activity from BusyBeeInGradeThre. I added an additional activity for my students – highlighting with a purpose. I gave them 3 different colored highlighters and 3 different reading purposes, and I asked them to highlight accordingly. This really made them think about their purpose, rather than just painting the entire page, which is NOT useful! (IF this is the kind of activity that interests you, here is another product that hits this goal)
Then, I made a Dr. Seuss themed bookmark for my students, which they cut out and colored. (Want your own? Download for free here: Dr. Seuss Bookmark).
Tomorrow will be a full Free Reading Day. We have checked out a big, plush room in the building (usually used for teacher meetings), and I invited students to bring in snacks, pillows, and blankets. We are just going to lounge around and read ALL HOUR! Yippeee!!
What are your big plans for Read Across America Day? Can’t wait!
Did you eat a Paczki? Have you even heard of Paczki? I got to enjoy one this morning from the one and only National Bakery in Milwaukee. I mean, people line up early and wait outside in the cold for a loooong time to get their hands on these! Just read this and you’ll see what I mean.
According to the National Bakery, they sell about 36,000 Paczki on Fat Tuesday.
“People may not agree on how to pronounce them, but all are gathering to gobble up PACZKI on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Emigrates of Poland pronounce them “Pooch-key” or “Punch-key” or even “Poonch-key”, all are correct.
These Polish pastries were served up annually on the day before Lent, a period of abstinence observed by some Christians. Originally, PACZKI were made to use up the lard and eggs which were prohibited during lent. Now, they’re more of a last-minute indulgence of sweets before lent begins. Whatever your past, all enjoy the tasty treat of PACZKI, which means “little package” in Polish.
The new world version, like the old, is a rich dough deep fried, just like a donut. National Bakery offers a rich regular dough and an extra rich butter dough. The Paczki are filled with raspberry, or the traditional prune. Raisin Paczki have the raisins mixed into the dough. Toppings include a smooth sugar glaze, granulated sugar, or icing. It’s 100% quality or it’s not PACZKI!
PACZKI on PACZKI DAY are becoming what chocolate is to St. Valentine’s Day and what pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving, as many people share them with friends, families, and co-workers. In previous years, bakeries claimed Halloween as the traditional season that sold the most donut treats, now areas of the country show that “PACZKI” slaes surpass even their #1 bakery holiday of Christmas.”
This weekend, Ryan and I visited some friends who own a Lake House in Wisconsin. I hate winter, you know, and I find absolutely no redeeming qualities that make winter even slightly palatable. Basically, winter is what we put up with while we wait for, oh, ANY OTHER SEASON. Except then we do something new like hang out on a frozen lake with great friends, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, we had…. fun. It was beautiful! I mean, just look at these photographs. It was quiet, peaceful, pure white and lovely.
We walked around on the frozen lake, making snow angels, having snowball fights, trying not to slip and fall on the ice (but laughing when we actually do), and realizing just how cool it was that we were standing on FROZEN water! It was a new experience and new perspective, to view the sky and shore from the treacherous center of a frozen lake.
After an hour or so of sledding and playing in the snow, your reward is of course hot apple cider or hot cocoa and a long sit in front of the fireplace to enjoy warming up your toes. We ate dinner and played board games well into the night. It was a lovely weekend, and I only hate winter at about 90% capacity now 🙂
We had a blast on our annual Science of Tubing field trip. Every year, we go to Sunburst Winter Sports Park and the students engage in a day of science and fun! They are given a packet to complete and 2 hours to calculate data about the hill, mass, friction, average speed, acceleration, work, and power for snow tubing on the hill. They work in small groups, and they are given a spring scale, angle finder, and stop watch. We also used the iPads and downloaded apps like Speed Box, which has a speedometer function. It was the perfect balance of education and fun!
Field trips are wonderful opportunities to teach the ‘Hidden Curriculum.’ We learn how to behave on a bus, behave in public, be responsible for tools and equipment, clean up after ourselves, thank staff for their assistance, and how to have fun in a safe and respectful way. I love having a chance to bond with my students outside of the classroom. Believe it or not, they ask the teachers to join their group, ‘link up,’ and do a tube run with them – just for fun.
The teachers have a lot of fun, too! In fact, I don’t know who has more fun – the students or the teachers! We race kids. We joke and have a great time. We lend students our extra hats and scarves to let them know we care about them. We sing songs on the bus. These are the lasting memories that make school fun and learning possible. These are the memories that make it so hard to say goodbye to them in June!
We had an AWESOME time tonight at the Glo Run! It’s a 5K event that takes place at night, obviously so you can appreciate all of the glow-in-the-dark and fun lights and music. I went with my husband, Ryan, and our very good friend, Cait. We got to run for about half of the time – for the most part, people are walking and appreciating the sensory overload of the event, which makes it kind of hard to run. Ryan didn’t think he’d survive, but he did great! I love events like this Glo Run and the Color Run – they are very engaging, motivating, and rewarding for staying active! I would definitely do this one again.
Welcome back, teachers and students! Today is my first day back with students. We are doing an all-school pep rally to start the day, then rotating through a shortened version of the schedule so students can see their classrooms/teachers, then after lunch we have a PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) activity for the whole afternoon to learn about school expectations.
I have quite a few ‘Get To Know You’ Activities planned. My goal is always to learn all 180 students’ names by Day 2. In reality, I will have about 7 names that just won’t stick by the end of Day 2 – I’ll get it by Day 3. I really take pride in getting to know my students and establishing a strong working relationship. I like to know what makes each student unique. Positive relationships are the cornerstone of my classroom management style.
The first activity is called ‘Get To Know You Bingo.’ It is a Bingo board with a question in each box. Each student will have his/her own worksheet and a pen/cil. They will have to walk around the room, ask a classmate a question, listen thoughtfully, and write the classmate’s name/response in the box. In this way, they should go around the room until they’ve gotten 5 in a row (or fill the whole board, depending on pacing and how much time we have). I encourage them to come up to me so I can appreciate their responses as well. You can see a preview picture of the activity below, and you can download the Get To Know You Bingo pdf here.
Another fun activity that I can do in the last few minutes of class throughout the first week uses this ‘Question Ball,’ which I adapted for my 8th graders from this blog post. I bought a bouncy ball from the Dollar Store for $2 and then wrote 35 ‘Get To Know You’ questions using a Sharpie. Doing this every day for the last couple of minutes will really help me learn those names!
1. What is your favorite dessert?
2. Do you belong to any clubs/groups?
3. How long do you sleep on the weekends?
4. How many times have you moved?
5. What do you do during recess?
6. What is something you’d like to buy?
7. What makes you really mad?
8. What is the last book or story that you read?
9. Tell about an injury you have had.
10. Do you have any chores at home?
11. What is your favorite summer activity?
12. What do you want to be when you grow up?
13. What is your biggest pet peeve?
14. What is your favorite breakfast food?
15. Do you like your name? Is it a good fit?
16. What makes you extremely happy?
17. Which class is your favorite?
18. Who lives with you?
19. Tell something that not many people know about you.
20. Do you have a favorite song, album, or musical artist?
21. How do you relax/unwind?
22. What is your favorite movie or TV show?
23. Which class is the hardest or easiest for you?
24. What is the strangest food you have ever tried?
25. Do you have a cell phone?
26. Have you ever been on Honor Roll or Student of the Month?
27. Where do you want to live when you grow up?
28. What is your favorite sport to play?
29. What makes you feel stressed?
30. How clean is your bedroom?
31. Chocolate or vanilla?
32. Walk or run?
33. Early or late?
34. Hot or cold?
35. Do you like surprises?
I’m really excited for today! I can’t wait to meet all of my new students!
Pancakes are a weekend thing, right? There’s honestly no better way to spend an early Saturday or Sunday morning than sitting at the kitchen table with my husband (and the dog sitting ON my feet – he has attachment issues), reading the news, eating pancakes, and planning the rest of the day. How often do I get to do this? Almost never. Who wants to go through all the trouble and make all that mess?
WELL! I tried out another great idea I found on Pinterest. I made the pancake batter and spooned it into a plastic bag. I got the griddle nice and hot, cut off the corner of the bag, and squeezed the batter into perfectly shaped silver dollar pancakes. AWESOME!
The clean-up was almost nonexistent. I just threw away the bag! No drips all over the counter/stove to clean up. I am in love with pancakes all over again! Next weekend, I am going to try fun shapes. I mean, why not?
Have you heard of Blackout Poetry? This is a really simple, effective, fun way to introduce poetry. EVERYone can do this. As I tell my students, you don’t have to create something from scratch – the something is already there. It’s up to you to liberate the poetry from page – find the secret message and reveal it.
Laura Randazzo, one of my favorite sellers on TpT, created a FREE Blackout Poetry product that my students have classroom tested and approved. We began by watching the free Prezi that she created. If you aren’t familiar with Prezi (nickname for Presentation), it’s basically like an online Powerpoint, but way more fun. You don’t need any special equipment – just Internet access. This Prezi walks you through the process of creating Blackout Poetry.
Teacher Tip: I warned them the day before our lesson to bring dark markers to class (and I rustled up as many as I could find in my teacher stash as well) as well as scissors (in case they wanted to trim their poem).
To prepare for this lesson, I chose several dozen of my favorite classroom novels. I hauled my pile to the copy room, opened each book up to a random page, and copied it. That way, we aren’t destroying any books. Since my students sit in groups in my classroom, I placed a pile of copied pages at each table group and asked them to pick a page that ‘spoke to them.’ Warning: advise your students NOT to read the page. This will put an unshakable idea into their head about what the page should be about. BIG mistake! It’s best to just skim the words, like scanning the food in your refrigerator, for a basic idea of what you want. There was a lot of discussion and paper-passing, but my students settled on their final decisions within a few minutes.
After we watched the Prezi, I asked my students to start with a pencil and look for a special word (anchor word) from which they could build a message. “But Mrs. D., what should the message be about?” Great question. I asked them to think about themes we have learned through our novels and short stories throughout the year. Think about universal messages about life, truths, or observations about humanity. That seemed to be a great place to start for the vast majority of my students. The more advanced poets didn’t need as much direction and just dug right in.
Once they had a potential poem sketched out in pencil, I directed them to try out their poem on a classmate. Ask for a reaction and feedback. Make any necessary revisions, then finally go for the marker and start blacking out what isn’t needed.
As an extension for some students, I invited them to insert a blackout image that complimented the poem. As you can see in the sample images below, the students rose to the challenge!
The beautiful results were then displayed for the remainder of the poetry unit 🙂