Developing Social Skills & Rapport in the Classroom Through the Use of Writing

Monday, July 1, 2019 No comments

Many times I have noticed over the years that kids, just like adults get comfortable in their friendships with those who have the same interests as them. To be honest I am just like that too. But in the classroom sometimes we have students who struggle with social skills. These students struggle to initiate a conversation while other students may be unaware that other classmates struggle with this. Many times when an area is easy for us it can almost seem like we are blind to others that struggle in that area. It is definitely a special gift/trait when a student recognizes another classmate who doesn't feel included or is shy and helps them join in and feel welcome. 

One way in my classroom that I like to work on helping students develop various social skills/ rapport is through collaborative activities. One in particular is through my Classmate Biography Writing Project. 

I use this activity when we are working on our writing skills and learning about biographies. Many times I will let the students pair up with a friend as their partner but for this activity I specifically pair students up to put them "outside of their comfort box" you might say because their partner is someone who they normally wouldn't pick. 
With this activity the students have a set interview with prompts that help to promote conversation. As they interview one another I have found that many times students who wouldn't normally partner up begin to find that they may actually have something in common or that working with each other wasn't as bad as they thought. It can help to build new relationships within the classroom and help students work on developing their communication skills through the writing interview prompts. They then take all their information and begin writing the biography about their classmate. If they need more information they go back and initiate more conversation to get the information they need. 
  So in the end what the students thought was just a fun writing mini-project actually helped to build class rapport and individual social skills.

End of the Year Fun Activities

Sunday, April 28, 2019 No comments
The end of the school year is always filled with fun activities from things in the classroom to activities outside of the classroom such as field day. One thing I enjoy doing with my students is making an End of the Year Memory Book. This is a great way for my students to reflect on things we have learned throughout the year that may have included field trips, STEM labs, or more. It also is a great way to have students share some of their fun friend memories from the year as they have made new friendships, developed deeper friendships, or maybe someone is moving away they will have this book as a way to remember their friends. Then after the students complete them we have time as a class to come together to listen and laugh as students share their memories. 
The set I use with my students includes 12 great activity sheets to pick and choose from:

                                          End of the Year Memory Book -Print & Google Classroom  | Distance Learning

The 12 Activities included are:
1. Teacher acrostic- students use the teachers last name to create an acronym with words or phrases about their teacher.
2. Student's name acrostic- they write their own name and then find a classmate to write positive and encouraging things about them using their name.
3. Favorite field trip or class activity- writing and illustration activity
4. 4 Friends favorite memory- they find 4 different classmates who will write down a favorite memory about them from the year.
Favorite memory about the teacher- writing activity
6. You are teacher for the day- You switched places with the teacher and now you write a short story about the day you were teacher for a day.
7. Name of School Word Work- students will write the name of their school then use those letters to create as many 2, 3, 4, and 5 or more letter words.
8. Tell about someone who has inspired you this year- writing activity
9. Classmate Scavenger Hunt- students will try to find as many different classmates who match a description on the page and get their signature as possible.
"Figure Me Out" Math activity- students will create math problems to solve For Example: My Age 14 + 2 - 6 = 10 (you would be 10 years old.)
11. Favorite scene from a book you read this year- writing and illustration activity
12. Top 10 things that have made this year SUPER!!!- writing/list activity

Celebrate Fun in April- Part 2

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 No comments

April is National Poetry Month. I don't know about you but when I first mention to my class that we are going to learn about poetry this month many of them (especially the boys) let out groans! It seems many times that kids have a misconception about poetry, that it always has to rhyme, or that its too hard. Then once I begin to explain an overview about some of the fun types of poetry that we will be learning about and trying their attitudes hit a 180 and their faces actually have smiles on them. 

One great way that I give my students a visual of the different types of poetry is by using this Types of Poetry bulletin board set in my classroom.

Types of Poetry Bulletin Board/Poster Set
With this up on the wall in the back of the room, students are reminded of the different types we are studying and the patterns each style follows. They can even use these anchor charts to write their own extra poems on their free time. Which I find many students trying and then giving to me as gifts for my wall or desk. :)

A great resource that I have found that pairs well with my bulletin board/ anchor chart posters is this set by Rachel Lynette.
I don't use all 21 of the patterns with my 4th graders but we use about half of them. The examples are great and the students really love the simplicity of these different types of poems. I even find my boys who in the beginning let out groans now loving to write poems.

Celebrate Fun in April- Part 1

Thursday, April 4, 2019 No comments

April can be a super busy month for teachers. We are coming close to the end of the school year. Some are excited to have spring break, while others may be coming back from spring break. Many of us are even starting to count down the number of days until the end of the school year! :)

The month of April itself has many fun and exciting things for teachers to enjoy celebrating and to come up with creative activities for their classroom that can give students that much needed enjoyment break from the dreaded state testing!

So over the next couple weeks I want to share just a few fun ideas that I do with my kiddos and hopefully you will feel free to comment below to share some of your ideas as well.

Idea # 1: Beverly Clear Author Study for D.E.A.R. day and Author Study Posters:

The kids in my class absolutely LOVE to read. In fact this year I have many students who also really enjoy writing their own stories and mini books. So with this in mind I know this year especially my students will enjoy D.E.A.R. day where we stop everything and just relax in a special spot around the room and read.
In my class we read novels and one in particular we read is Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Its a great discussion book and one that many students can relate on a personal level with or know someone who can. One way for students to enjoy reading even more is for them to learn about the authors themselves. So many authors actually developed their love for reading and writing as children but Beverly Cleary is one that can inspire that child who is not your average student. She struggled with reading and actually dreaded it, refusing to read except at school because she had a teacher in first grade who did not encourage her. However, the school librarian took her under her wing and introduced her to some great books and really encouraged her. This helped changed Cleary's life because it made reading fun and she developed an interest in writing as well. Her story is one that can encourage those struggling students. Cleary promoted S.S.R. (sustained silent reading) in her book Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and the national rise of the D.E.A.R. program took off. It is now celebrated on Cleary's birthday, April 12th. So if you are looking for something good to add to your day check out the following author study on Cleary. You can also check out this fun set of Children's Author Posters which make great reading area anchor charts with fun facts about some of the student's favorite authors. Like this fun fact: Jan and Stan Berenstain were inspired by Dr. Seuss and began writing their own books later to have some of them actually edited by Seuss himself.
Beverly Cleary Author Study- Print & Google Classroom  | Distance Learning
                           Children's Author Anchor Chart Posters Set

What to do with Early Finishers?

Monday, February 4, 2019 No comments
This is something I'm sure we all as teachers go back and forth with. Trying to find just the right thing that will work for our students is challenging. I know that's how its been for me anyway. I would come up with something and the students would do it but it never seemed to be just the right thing that would keep them motivated and working on different skills all while making it fun and interesting for the students.

It was my challenge until recently when I developed my "Early Finishers Center". 

When my students are finished and have time before we move on to our next thing they can come back to our early finishers centers. I found all these cute trays and tubs at the Dollar Tree and then created labels for the trays and tubs. Students can choose from multiple items to complete different tasks. 

I also created a list for all the choices they have when they come to the center. All of my students have a laminated card with their name at the top. If they finish a task they will bring it to me and I look it over to make sure they did it correctly and with effort. Then I will give them a check mark next to that particular task. Throughout the month they can work on the various choices. If they begin something and don't have time to finish that day I have a blue folder for unfinished work they can put it in on the table and then come back to the next time they finish early.
If a student is able to finish all the choices in a month correctly and with effort they will earn a free homework pass. (This really motivates the students to want to use the center and do something productive and educational rather than sitting at their desk and be off task. They also have to do a lot of extra practice or learning activities to earn it.)

Choices they have include:

1. Boggle - I actually have a Boggle game that they can shake the letter cubes in and then use the provided worksheet to complete.
2. Rainbow Spelling - I have markers in the tubs and I weekly update the word list so it is our current Spelling list. This helps them with extra practice for that week when they choose this one.
3. Noggle- which I found a great resource for Multiplication and Division facts here:
4. Math Task Cards- I have a couple different sets out that I have created and they can work on.
5. Math Worksheet- I have some extra practice worksheets for review of past concepts.
6. Creative Writing - This is something I created for my class for the students to enjoy. It is six different writing choice cards and  90 noun, verb, and adjective cards that they can choice from to incorporate into their writing. Each choice card has its own correlating writing sheet for the students and directions. 
You can check out this product here:

Early Finishers Writing Choice Cards
7. Reading Passages- I have some fun short reading & response passages about animals and various topics the students enjoy.

If the students don't feel like doing an item on the Choice Card at that particular time they have other choices not on the card to do too that are educational and fun such as:

My Zing! an Uno inspired Multiplication Game and then also my Division version (which the kids love to play and I have in Addition and Subtraction versions of as well.) 

                  Multiplication Math Game: Zing! (Plays similar to Uno)   Division Math Game: Zing! (Plays similar to Uno)

We also have been working on learning the States and Capitals, so I created a memory game for the States and Capitals and have them divided up into two tubs to group regions to play with.
                               States & Capitals Memory Game

It has taken me a while to develop just what works for my students. I went through some things that failed but sometimes we have to fail before we can succeed. My students are enjoying this and it is helping them to continue learning, have fun while doing it, and stay focused on something good!

If you have a fun, creative idea that you have used in your classroom for your early finishers I would love to hear about it. 

You can check out my early finisher products that I mentioned above on my TpT store:

Creative Positive Classroom Management Ideas

Thursday, January 24, 2019 No comments

Thinking back to college many years ago, I remember sitting in a class on classroom management. You read the books, discuss all the ins and outs of the classroom, the different possible scenarios, and even write the super long paper on your own classroom management philosophies but really I think sometimes it takes being in the classroom with your actual students to really fully develop what works for your particular classroom. No one classroom is exactly alike but finding something that works that really drives the students to stay focused and want to work hard is the key.
So I want to share something that I have found that has worked in my classroom over the years and maybe it will spark an idea for you or even be something that you might want to try.
I think we all have some form of discipline system to teach correction when students have done what they should not have done. In my classroom I use a clips system where everyone starts on "Good Day", then moves to 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes off recess, then ends on Principals Office. 
But one thing I want to encourage is having a positive behavior reinforcement system. Sometimes it can be so easy to just say move the clip rather than having something positive in the classroom that students want to work hard towards. So I have 3 modes of positive reinforcement I want to share:

1. Daily Punch Cards: Each week I give my students a weekly punch card that says "Good Behavior for the week of …"  Each day at the end of the day if they have not moved their clip for a behavior issue they receive a hole punch on their card. At the end of the week if they have all the hole punches for the week they can use that card as either 5 bonus points on a homework, quiz, or test of their choice by saving the card and stapling on that particular paper. The other option they have with the cards are to save the cards until they have 3 cards that have been hole punched for the whole week and they may staple those 3 cards onto any worksheet and use it as a free homework pass. The cards do not have to be 3 weeks in a row, just 3 completely punched cards. The kids really enjoy this because they want to work hard to earn that homework pass. 

2. Table/ Row Points: I have my students sitting in a row but have used them as tables before in the past. Each month we move desks on the first day of school for that month. Each row then works to earn points which I keep track of on the board throughout the month. I give points periodically throughout the day for things like: the first row that is sitting quietly with their books open and ready to what we are doing next; the row that is participating the best during a lesson; the row that has the neatest desks for the day; the first row that is packed up and ready to go at the end of the day; and various other things. I give different point values such as 300 or 500 points. I also use points when we play review games for tests and the points they earn as a row I add to each row's total on the board. This promotes team work within the classroom. Then at the end of the month whatever row has the most points I bring them in a reward such as candy bars, cookies, donuts, or whatever they might like. Then we change desks for the new month and start points all over again with new people in the rows. The students love this and really work hard to earn points. It also helps encourage them to want to stay on task.

3. Marble Jar: I have a marble jar that we fill for getting compliments. This is a way for the whole class to work together. They earn compliments from their specials teachers for doing well during music, art, or whatever special they are in. They can also earn compliments from other teachers or administration when in the hall, lunch room, or other places around school. If they receive a compliment they get 5 marbles in the jar. Once the jar is filled they earn a rewards party as a class which is usually a movie with a snack. 

I have learned over the years that having multiple positive behavior reinforcement methods in the classroom is a great way to promote success. With the 3 areas I mentioned above, my students have ways to individually, as a small group (row), and as a whole class achieve success and have a positive classroom.

If you like the punch card idea and interested in trying it out your can check out my "Monthly Themed Editable Weekly Behavior Punch Cards" they come in color and black/white versions:

Sunday, January 20, 2019 No comments
Welcome Everyone to Joyful4th,

As I begin this adventure of blogging about the Adventures in Elementary I hope that you will join me along the way, see some creative ideas, and even share some ideas. 
One thing I love about teaching is that everyday truly is an adventure. You never know what your day will hold, the good, the bad, and yes even the crazy! So let's buck up and enjoy the ride!

Let's start off with a Freebie!!!

With MLK Day coming up tomorrow here is a great writing prompt to get your students thinking about the dream that Martin Luther King had and let them share a dream they may have for our country as well.

Click below for your free download: