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5 Activities for a Positive First Week of School



    There’s nothing like the first day of school. Everything is fresh and new. Expectations are high and everyone’s a little nervous. From day one I want to be sure my new students know that our classroom is a place where everyone is accepted and kindness is normal. The first day of school can be a little hectic. That’s why I make sure to plan activities that not only help us get to know each other but also establish a classroom that thrives on positive energy. 


Here are five of my favorite ways to get the school year off to a positive start. 

1.  Parent Questionnaire 

Before the year starts ask parents to tell you a little about their child.  One easy way to do this is during Meet the Teacher. Set out a short questionnaire for parents to fill out.  Keeping it brief will make it easier for parents to complete during the meet and greet.  You can choose a few of these questions, or come up with your own.

-Tell me one thing your child loves to do.
-My child is really good at ________.
-Tell me about one fun thing your child did this summer.
-My child's most unique talent is _______
-Three words that describe my child are _____, ______, _____.

Not only will this information help you get to know your students, but you can also use it in your first week's activities.  

>One way I use this information is to create a classmate bingo game.  I type in one piece of information about each student.  Then students can mingle and try to find the classmate for each square on their Bingo board.

>Another way to use some of the information is to play "Who is It"?  I choose one of the parent forms and read a bit of the information and see if students can guess who I'm talking about.

>You can use the information to call students to line up.  For example: "Our classmate who is adventurous, loves to do cannonballs in the pool, and has two younger sisters can line up"


First week of school activity, memory jay

2.  Start a Memory Jar

Wonderful memories of the school year begin from day one.  Collecting these memories in a large jar is a fun way to keep all of these memories.  For the first week of school, I like to model how to choose one positive, important, or funny thing that happened during the day and write it on a slip of paper.  In future weeks the kids can start brainstorming ideas of a memory to add to the jar.  Sometimes I give table groups 5 minutes to come up with one memory.  Then the class votes on one to add to our jar.

At the end of each quarter, we pull out some of the memories to share.  It's a fun way to relive some of the best times we had as a class.


Use a simple jigsaw puzzle to encourage positive behavior.


3.  Great Team Puzzle

With a jigsaw puzzle from the dollar store, you can have a fun way to encourage positive behavior.   The puzzles I found have either 24 or 48 pieces.   You can use either size, depending on how frequently you'd like your class to earn the whole-class reward. 

>First, attach a magnet to the back of each piece.  With the magnet, the pieces will stick to your whiteboard as the puzzle is put together.

>Next, set the criteria for earning a puzzle piece.  You can focus on one expectation each day, or leave it open to any positive behaviors you see throughout the day.

>Whenever you see a student or group of students behaving in a kind, respectful, or caring way, let the class know.  Let a student pull a puzzle piece from the box.  If the piece fits with a piece already on the board, they attach it.  Otherwise, it's left on the board, to be attached later.

>Once the puzzle is complete the class can have a special reward.  My kids always loved extra free time, or 5 minutes of extra recess.  


This editable flip book is just what you need for the first week of school.

4.  Class Flipbook

Instead of giving your students a printed booklet with procedures and expectations, let them create one for themselves.  As you present and talk about all of the important class and the school information, students add that information to the flipbook.  By the end of the week, each student will have learned about the routines and expectations for the class, plus, they'll have a personal flipbook to refer to whenever they need a reminder.

Give each student a blank flipbook that you have set up.  You can use this free editable template.  To get it ready, type in the headings and space. Then print, fold and staple.  The complete directions are included in the free download. 

Click here for the free editable template you can use with your class.  (This is a PowerPoint file and will be editable once you open it in your PowerPoint program.  It is NOT editable when it first opens in your browser.) 


Introduce important life lessons at the beginning of the school year with Winn Dixie

5.  Life Lessons with Winn Dixie

I saved my favorite activity for last.  After I read the book, Because of Winn Dixie, for the first time I knew I wanted to share it with my class of third graders.  Not only is it a wonderful story about friendship and acceptance, but it also sparks some really wonderful discussions.  I started using it as my first read-aloud of the year and quickly realized that we were talking about many positive qualities I wanted to see from my students.  So I put together a list of positive qualities and character traits.  Next, I chose 13 of these traits and called them Life Lessons we all need to learn. (honesty and truthfulness, curiosity, compassion, responsibility, courage, teamwork, respect, loyalty, generosity, friendly, self-control, perseverance, and joyfulness), Then I found parts of the book where the characters are showing these traits.  

Now, when I read Because of Winn Dixie, we stop and talk about these life lessons.  I also made small signs for these life lessons that go up on a display so we can refer to them all year.  The kids also have a response journal with a prompt about the life lesson for that day.  I love starting the year with this shared experience.  We talk about these life lessons all year and use the characters from the book as a reference. 

Hopefully, one of these activities is just what you were looking for to get your year off to a positive start.  I'd love to hear about other first-week activities you love doing with your students.

Click on this image to check out this resource in my TpT store:

Because of Winn Dixie, it's going to be a terrific year.




5 Activities for a Positive First Week of School












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Fun Activity for Informational Text

 Fun with Informational Text
Students love Informational Text.  This true and false facts activities is a fun way for students to explore informational text.


Third-graders are in love with learning.  They’re fascinated with everything around them; worms, rocks, space stories, prehistoric animals, just about everything.  That’s one of the reasons, eight and nine-year-olds are such fun.


It’s at this age that students begin to read to learn instead of just learn to read.  One thing I always made sure was plentiful in my classroom was informational text.  For every science or social studies unit I checked out tons of books from our school or local library so the kids could have lots of resources close by.


One of my favorite activities with informational text is True and False Facts. It’s super simple.  Students can work on their own or with a partner.  


  • Let them choose a nonfiction (informational) text.  It can be from a collection of books on a topic you’re studying or one on a topic they choose.
  • As they read the book, they jot down interesting facts.
  • Encourage them to collected 15-20 facts.

  • Next, have them change five of these true facts into false facts.  This can be done by changing one small thing about the fact.  For example, if the fact mentions a location, they can change it to a different, false, location.  

        True:  Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in Asia.

         False:  Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in Europe.

  • Now they have five false facts and 10-15 true facts.  Write the true and false facts on separate cards.
  • Students exchange fact cards and sort them into true/false stacks.  
  • To strengthen research skills, keep the book with the fact cards.  That way, students can find the evidence for the true and false facts in the text while they sort the cards.





This activity is part of my Informational Text Tool Box. It's packed with everything you need to teach your students how to use informational text. Click on the image to check out this amazing resource.

Informational Text Tool Box, everything you need to teach students how to use informational text.




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Class Journals Are Just What You Need!

 


Many teachers have their students use individual journals.  I’ve had journals for reading, writing, and the content areas of science and social studies.  Journals are a great way for students to keep important information, class notes, and reflections on their learning.  But, have you tried class journals?  


Class journals are used by all students.  These special journals can be a way to share common experiences and build a strong community.  The journals can keep a record of class meetings, collect thoughts on current events, write continuing stories, chronicle class or school news, share book reviews, or respond to current read-aloud.  The list is endless.


Tips and Suggestions:

-A composition book holds up better than a spiral notebook.

-Set up a rotation schedule to make sure all students get a chance to write in the journal.

-Have a different journal for different purposes. You can have several class journals, don’t try to keep current events in the same journal with a journal with continuing fiction stories.

-Attach a library pocket to the front.  The card in the pocket will keep a list of students who have written in the journal with the date of their entries. (See the freebie below.)

-Decide if students write in the journal at school, at home, or both.  If students are adding a story, it could be their homework for the week.  If the journal is for reflections on a book read to the class, the student can be given time to write during the school day.  Writing in the class journal could even be one of your literacy centers.


Here's the best news . . . I've created a freebie to share with you.  This free, editable PowerPoint has all the printables you'll need to put your own class journals together.  (Please save the file to your computer before you begin editing.)

 

However you use a class journal, I know your kids will love them!







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Make a Book About Books

 

Your kids will learn all about books from Aunt Chip as she saves the town of Triple Creek.

Everyone loves to listen to stories.  Even as an adult, I listen to recorded books all the time.  As a teacher, I read aloud to my students every day, throughout the day.  One author I returned to again and again was Patricia Polacco.  Her books are not only filled with her beautiful artwork, but they also tell beautiful stories.


This is the first in a series of blog posts that highlight books by Patricia Polacco with suggestions for how to use them in your classroom.  I’m starting with a book you may not be familiar with . . . Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair. 


The people of Triple Creek “use” books all the time.  They use stacks of books as tables and stools, to fill potholes, and even to build the Triple Creek Dam.  But no one knows how to read.  As Aunt Chip tells her nephew, Eli, it all started when the town tore down the library to put up a giant TV tower.  She told them there would be consequences!  Aunt Chip begins telling Eli stories from the books she remembers.  He shares these stories with his friends.  Soon, they all want to learn how stories can come from books.

It isn't long before the kids are grabbing books from everywhere and begging Aunt Chip to teach them to read.  Then the children are teaching their parents to read, too.




This simple to make flap book will help your kids learn about the care of a book.  It also introduces the types of books and the parts of a book.  Great activity for the beginning of the school year.


Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair is a great book to share with your students during the first few weeks of school.  You can focus on how much reading and books impact our lives.  Discussions with younger students can be about taking care of books.  Older students can learn about genres and how reading is important in all parts of our lives.


I’ve created  a flap-book that teaches kids all about books--

    -how we take care of books

   -book dos and don't

   -how we use books

   -parts of a book

   -types of books 


Three pages printed double sided turn into an adorable flap book that teachers kids the types of books, the parts of a book and how we use books in our lives.



Kids love learning about books with this simple flap book.


Click on the image below to get a free copy of this activity to use with your kids!


Let Aunt Chip teach your kids about book and how they enrich our lives.





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Making a Digital Planner Work for You

Digital Planners:  Making them Work for You

See how easy it is to customize a digital planner and make it your own!


One of the biggest advantages of digital planners is being able to customize it to be exactly what you need.  Customizing can be as simple as typing in your name and class information to adding columns and rows in a table. I’ve put together directions and a few videos that will help you customize your digital planner.


Before you begin customizing your digital planner I highly recommend making a copy of the original file and saving it with a new name.  This will preserve the original version.  You’ll want to keep the original untouched, just in case you want to go back and begin the customizing again.


The digital planner I’m customizing is in Google Slides, but the directions for PowerPoint would be almost the same.


Editing text boxes:   You’ll know a text box is editable when you click in the box and see a blue frame.  When you see that frame you can change the text in that box.  Now you can change the font, font size, and font color.  And, of course, you can change what the text says.  If you want to move the text box, click on the frame.  You’ll see the four-sided arrow and can then drag the box to a new location.  Click outside the text box when you’re finished.   You can also do a copy/paste for the text inside a box, or the entire text box.  Ctrl C will copy and Ctrl V will paste.







Editing Tables:  The core of any planner is the planning pages.  Most weekly planning pages are created with tables.  The first thing you need to decide is where you like the subjects and days.  You can have the subjects on top and days down the side or days across the top and subjects down the side.  After you decide which style you want, delete the other slide.  (Don’t worry, you have the original version saved so you can get that page back later if you change your mind.)


Now, you’re ready to adjust the table for the number of subjects you have.  With the subjects at the top of the columns, you can add or delete columns.  If your subjects are down the side, you can add or delete rows.

 

The first thing I do is things in my schedule that are the same every week.  I add a column or row with recess and lunchtime.  If my specials (music, PE, and library) are the same time every day, that will be another row or column.  If my special are at different times each day, I can split a cell, or add a text box to a cell.


After you have the weekly plan page set up, you can duplicate that page for each week of the school year.  I usually duplicate it for just the weeks in the first quarter, just in case I need to make changes for the next quarter.




Here’s an example of a planner page set up with rows for lunch and recess.  Text boxes for music, PE, and library have been added, too.


Editing the Weekly Plan table for digital planner on Google Slides.

Here’s another trick.  If you want more room to type in your plans, you can split the plans for one week into two slides.  You’ll need to use the plan page with the days across the top.

1. Duplicate the planning slide
2. On the first slide, delete the columns for Thursday, Friday.  Or, you can choose to delete Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
3. On the second slide delete the first two or three days of the week.

4. Now you have one week with the days split between two slides, giving you more space to write your plans.

For more planning space you can split the days on your planner.

Splitting the days of the week on your planner gives you more space to type in your plans.

I hope you'll check out my digital planner.  It has dozens of pages to keep your information 

organized and your school year well planned.  Click on the image for more detail.

Digital Planners are so easy to customize.




Learn how easy it is to customize the text boxes and tables in a digital planner.









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