Monday, November 12, 2012

Some Classroom Freebies

Thanks to my slightly off-the-wall, kooky, active teaching style, I've generated a sizable repertoire of unexpected learning activities.  I've found that if I can hide the learning inside absurdity, humor, and fun, my students learn more and actually enjoy doing it.  So here are some activities we've done lately.

Verbs with AFV!
To build anticipation for and gather some quick formative assessment data on what my students already know about verbs, I used the hit show AFV.  I streamed clips of America's Funniest Home Videos (but you could use any clean, funny videos) and had the students write a sentence describing what they saw happen in each clip and then identify the verb(s) in each sentence.  The kids LOVED it, I got the data I needed, and we all had a good time.  MUCH better than a worksheet!

Checkers for Worksheets or Review

For this one, you'll need a checker board (and checkers).  I labeled each square used in play with numbers (there are 32 squares played in checkers, but my worksheet had only 27 questions, so I labeled 5 spaces as free spaces, similar to those used in BINGO).  Because I wanted to use these checker boards for other activities, I used Post-it strips to number the spaces, but you could easily write directly on the board.  I wanted students to turn this worksheet in, so I made copies for each student.  However, you could laminate your worksheet or use page protectors and rotate kids through the activity, reusing the same sheet with dry or wet erase markers to save paper.  My kids have iPads, so they could even snap a picture of the page and email it to me (though most of my kids have iPad 1's, which don't have cameras...).
OK, here are the rules of play:

Checkers Review Game o  Set your checkers up as you would to play a normal game of checkers.
o  Move your checkers as you would in a normal game.
o  When you JUMP your opponent, look at the number you LAND on.  You must answer that question correctly to take your opponent’s checker.  If you answer incorrectly, your opponent’s checker stays.
o  When you move your checker in to be KINGED, you must answer the corresponding question correctly.  If you answer incorrectly, your checker is NOT kinged.
o  The player with the most opponent’s checkers at the end is the winner.
You get the same information a worksheet would provide, but you're also breaking up the monotony and allowing learning to happen in an unexpected way :)

4 Corners
You've probably already heard of this one.  Label 4 areas of your room, one for each term or concept you're covering (we did the 4 types of sentences).  Then you give an example and have kids WALK to that area.  You can also use this activity as an ice-breaker or time-killer ("Your favorite zoo animal: tigers, lions, chimpanzees, or alligators--go!").  Cheap, quick, and easy!  And the kids LOVE it and tend to remember the concepts because their BODY was there.  When we did the types of sentences, kids connected the type of sentence to where they had stood in the room and used that to help them on the final assessment.

Voting Paddles
These are great for yes/no questions or any question that can be answered with one of two answer choices (think math--positive or negative or opinions--agree or disagree).  I made mine very simply: laminated paper and craft sticks.  That's it.  Then I have the students use wet-erase marker to write our answer choices for the day so we can reuse the same paddles for other activities.  I ask questions and have the students quick vote with their paddles.  Students can also poll each other that way.  Again, quick, fun, easy formative assessment!

Give me a ., !, ?
I'm using this one currently for our reading log.  I have the students give me a brief statement summary (.), one thing that surprised them (!), and one thing they're still wondering about (?).

Adverb Charades
You'll need strips of paper or index cards, two different colors.  One one color, have the kids write one verb that could be easily demonstrated.  Then have them write one adverb on the other.  Gather the cards in separate stacks.  When a person is "it," they draw a combo and act it out.  Students then guess the combo.  I usually quickly write a word bank on the board as I gather the cards.

And one last instructional freebie: If you haven't yet checked out the site, you need to! It's a free, online classroom management site that lets you award or deduct points for any issue (you can input your own, positive or negative) and keep running totals and even email reports to parents!  I LOVE this site, and it's motivated my students like never before WITHOUT creating more work for me!  Woot!

Finally, I try to do things on open house or conference night to make my room as welcoming as possible.  Sometimes parents and/or kids are nervous, younger siblings are squirmy, and everyone is tired and frazzled.  I appreciate that parents take the time to come in, so here's what I do to make the whole experience a little more enjoyable:

And since our conferences are student-led, students often sit there uncomfortably unsure of what to say while parents impatiently flip through page after page of old homework assignments.  This year I developed a conversation guide to focus the time.

Name__________________________________________Student-Led ConferencesDiscussion Guide1) Thank your parents for taking the time to come in. 2) Show your parents your 1st Quarter grades on PowerSchool.  Go through each class and take the time to answer any questions they have. 3) Show your parents your agenda.
Do you fill it out each day? _____________________Do you take it to every class?_______________________
Do you look at it at home to see what you need to do for homework? __________________Do you show your parents your agenda each night? ______________________________________ 4) Go through your accordion folder.
Have you kept your folder organized? ____________________Have you shown Mom and Dad your graded work, notes home, etc? ___________________Are you keeping ALL your important papers in your folder? ____________________________Are you as organized as you need to be? _____________________________________ 5) Homework:Have you turned in ALL your assignments on time? _____________________________________Are you doing homework at home? _______________________________________Are you taking the time to do it well? _________________________________________Does any of your homework feel too difficult? _______________________________________Do you have a specific time and place at home to work on homework? ________________Look back through your grades on PowerSchool.  Are there any marked as missing, late, or zeros? _________________________ 6) Studying:Do you tell Mom or Dad when you have a test coming up? ______________________________Be honest.  Do you REALLY study? ___________________________________How much time do you typically spend studying at home for a test? ___________________Look back through your grades on PowerSchool.  Are your test grades above 70%? ________________________What could you do to better prepare for tests 2nd Quarter? _____________________________ 7) Attitude:How do you feel about school? __________________________________Do you like coming to school? __________________________________What do you like best about school? _____________________________________________________Do you get along with your classmates? ____________________________________________What do you need to do to improve your attitude or behavior? ______________________________________________
  8) Goals:Did you give your very best 1st Quarter? _____________________________________________________What do you want to improve most for 2nd Quarter? ___________________________________________What will it take to accomplish that goal? ___________________________________________________ 9) Read180:Show your parents your rBook and talk to them about each of the workshops we’ve done so far (1, 2, and 6).  What was your favorite? _________________________________________Look back at your Read180 and English class grades.  What were some assignments you think you really gave your best on? ______________________________________________Explain bell work, daily trivia, journals, reading rotation, etc.Go over your Reading Fluency rubric.  What did you do well? ______________________________________What did you need to improve? ________________________________________________Go over the rubric for your Halloween poem.  What did you do well? _____________________________________What did you need to improve? ________________________________________________Explain Class Dojo and how you’re doing.Make sure you SHOW them your poem too!You can show your parents the software, the different areas of our room, etc. 10) Math (if you have Mrs. Powell for math)Go over your math grades.  We covered whole numbers, story problems, integers, and decimals this quarter.  Which of those skills was your best? ___________________________________Which did you struggle most with? ______________________________________________Do you typically take the time to check your work? ______________________________________Do you SHOW all your work? _______________________________________________Did you take advantage of the chance to re-take or redo tests and quizzes? ________________________________Did you do all your homework assignments? _____________________________________________How do you feel about math? ____________________________________________________ 11) Social Studies:Review the things Mr. Weimer told you to review.  Use your data notebook app. 12) Science:Review the things Mrs. Kreienbrink told you to review.  Use your data notebook app. 13) What is one thing you wish your parents knew about you or school? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________14) What is one thing you really should thank them for? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________If you or your parents have questions to address with other teachers or you’d like to stop in to see them, you can go visit other classrooms.LOCKER:Show your parents your locker.Is it organized? ____________________________Take a moment to tidy it up.

So there ya go!  Feel free to add your own activities and resources in the comments!

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