Helpful Educational Websites

Online resources are becoming increasingly popular in this digital age. A lot of online sites help teachers individualize learning and present material in a more visual, and interactive way. Below are some of my favorite sites I like to use in my classroom.

All Subjects:

  • BrainPop
  • BrainPop JR
  • Discovery Education

Reading:

  • RazKids
  • Achieve 3000
  • Study Island
  • StarFall
  • TumbleBooks
  • Wonderopolis
  • ReadWorks
  • Digital Read Works
  • NewsELA
  • Scholastic
  • Time For Kids
  • Learn Zillion
  • The Emergent Reader

Math

  • ST Math
  • IXL
  • Study Island
  • Khan Academy
  • Learn Zillion
  • EnVision

Assessments:

  • Thatquiz
  • GoogleForms

Curriculum Resources:

  • SuperTeacher
  • CommonCoreSheets

Week of Respect

Our school and many schools around the nation are celebrating the week of respect. To raise awareness, our school has special dress up days such as asking students to wear a hat, mismatched clothes and to wear the color orange. Weeks like this promote community awareness and discussions about important topics. My classroom brainstormed specific ways respect looks like in different settings familiar to students.

activities, respect week, classroom community, anchor charts, ideas

Since respect is an abstract concept that can be hard to understand and explain, specific examples help students visualize how they can be respectful. My students were responsible for giving examples and drawing pictures of the different scenarios shown below. Students who are older can be responsible for writing examples on a sentence strip to help in the process of creating the anchor chart. Interactive anchor charts can help students feel more ownership and responsibility.

This chart will now hang in my classroom so we can refer back to it as needed throughout the year. Other activities regarding respect can be found online on sites such as Pinterest (where I got the idea for this poster) and Discovery Education (where I found videos). To aid in the presentation and discussion, I showcased different examples of respect through videos and class modeling.

Spelling Word Practice

Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to spelling words. Instead of boring repetition drills or using the outdated method of writing something 100 times, there are many activities students can participate in to practice weekly spelling words.

To start, I downloaded a great resource from teacherpayteacher that guides students to trace, write, build, find and use their spelling word in a sentence. Then, I have students use magnetic foam alphabet blocks and dry erase markers to write and build their words three more times during a rotating center.

elementary, early, dolch sight words

To reinforce the skills with an adult, my students can then practice writing their words in sand while saying the word and each letter of the word out loud.

activities, elementary, writing, learning

For homework, students can choose from a variety of activities that reinforces the words at home. Here are some ideas below:

  • Write the word 3x times using pencil, colored pencil, and crayon
  • Write the words in rainbow colors
  • Write the words in ABC order
  • Write a sentence for each word
  • Write or type a story using all your spelling words
  • Stamp the words
  • Build the words with legos, clay, dough, yarn or pipecleaners
  • String the words together using letter beads
  • Write the words in a verticle pyramid format. For example: l, lo, lov, love
  • Practice building the words using magnetic letter blocks
  • Type spelling words on the computer
  • Spell words in a sand or salt container
  • Trace words on the back of your hand
  • Spell words in shaving cream
  • Trace letters into the air (sky write)
  • Use ABC blocks to spell words (Scrabble)
  • Build words using ABC stickers
  • Use q-tips and paint words
  • Write words in glue and add glitter
  • Use newspaper and magazine to clip letters to build words

We use a spelling notebook to keep track of their progress and their words. All words are individualized so a spelling book helps everyone stay organized. Please feel free to use some of these ideas in your classroom! 🙂 Enjoy!

 

Back-to-School Highlights

I find the first week of school to be one of the most exciting parts of the year. Teachers are fresh, students are ready to learn, and the upcoming year is filled with endless possibilities. I wanted to highlight some of my favorite activities my classroom participated in during the first week of school.

This year, I decided to start each day with a morning meeting. I am following the responsive classroom approach, which outlines the morning meeting time with a greeting, sharing time, an activity, and a morning message. My kids and I have loved this time to connect! I am using Roxann Kriete’s Morning Meeting book to guide my practice.

responsive classroom, classroom community, teaching, early ed

My first homework assignment was for students to create a “Me Bag”. This gave them something to share during our morning meeting the second day of school. Students generally feel comfortable talking about things they like and activities they are good at. Students brought in gymnastic medals, dance shoes, toy cars, pictures, and special monuments bought while traveling.

homework, new teachers, back to school, first day

Next, we talked about how we wanted our classroom to run for the year. Together, we created “the great classmate is” chart shown below. Students in higher grades can write their ideas and children in lower grades can draw pictures of the words written on the chart. We had students drawing people being responsible, helping others, and saying kind words to others. After we completed the chart, we acted out different scenarios in which students could practice being a great classmate. The next day, a student in our class had the opportunity to do one of the scenarios we acted out the day before. It was a great moment for all!

back to school activities, community building, kind classroom ideas

During our professional days before starting the official school year, our administration emphasized the importance of goal-setting. My classroom used BrainPop’s “setting goals” video to introduce what a goal was and how to set a goal. I had to break down each SMART step for my students, but felt it was a good video to help my students set their own goals for the year.

brain pop, videos about goal setting, SMART goals, back to school activities

One of the goals for our classroom this year is to think before we speak. Our classroom talked about the importance of good communication and speech. I posted this acronym on a bulletin board close to my desk to help guide all of our talking for the year. This “think before you speak” practice is helpful when doing partner or group work, and creates a safe and friendly classroom environment for all.

think before you speak, classroom, kind, back to school activities

Another importance aspect of a great classroom is putting up functional posters and schedules that guide student learning. The “I love reading” bulletin board in my classroom outlines what great readers do, highlights our small group schedule which will eventually showcase our different stations and has a poster that records how many books each student will, in time, read throughout the month. During our goal-setting activity, my students’ individual goals are to read between 8-12 books by September 30th. To help achieve this goal, we are using our “We love reading” chart to record the number of books each student reads in class and at home.

bulletin board ideas, back to school, classroom decoration

We have had a great first week and I am looking forward to learning with my students throughout this school year. I am thankful for all the ideas I was able to pull from the internet and hope this post can guide your second week of teaching! Thanks as always for reading. 🙂

Behavioral Contracts: Tips for motivating students

Overview of Research: 

Research states that a behavior contract is one of the easiest and most effective practices that caregivers and teachers can use when helping students reach their goals (George, 2001). Since it is common practice in our society to write goals on paper, writing a behavior contract is something that students and caregivers can create and easily refer back to. According to Miller and Kelly (1994), goal setting produces significant improvements for children and often increases parent satisfaction (Miller and Kelly, 1994). In addition, writing contracts have been found to improve social and academic behavior in children and teens (Howard, Sweeney, McLaughlin 1993). Since each contract should be individualized to the child’s needs, specified behaviors are clearly stated and monitored. Children work on improving the listed behavior for a reward agreed upon both teacher/caregiver and student. The reward motivates the child to work toward their goal. The behavior contract can be used in both the home or school setting (Miller and Kelly (1994).

Who it is appropriate for:

The behavior contract is appropriated for any students who are working towards a goal. For example, students who do not like to write in complete sentences or students who have a resistance toward writing. Also appropriate for students who do not naturally edit their work or use periods/capitals when writing sentences. The behavior contract can be used to increase academic or social performance at home, in school, or with friends during unstructured times.

Steps for Implementation:

  1. Determine developmental and age-appropriate goal for student
  2. Sit down with student and explain what you would like the child to start doing
  3. Ask student what they want to work for
  4. Discuss and negotiate agreement (ex. number of responses needed, prize, system for collecting points)
  5. Write up agreement/contract
  6. Have student and teacher sign and agree on terms
  7. Hang contract in an accessible place to both the teacher and student
  8. Monitor progress daily or weekly, provide encouragement
  9. Give prize when earned or re-adjust goal as needed

Sample Contract:

I _______________________ agree to write five or more sentences when answering an open ended question. I will use a period at the end of a sentence and use a capital when writing the first letter in a sentence. I will check my work to make sure I add a capital and a period. When I write ____________ responses, I will earn _________________. I will be responsible to write a check at the bottom of this page each time my teacher agrees I met my responsibilities listed above.

__________________ ___________

student name     date

__________________                              ____________

teacher name       date

Plans to Judge Success: 

  • Does student meet requirements listed? (For example, does student write five or more sentences on open-ended questions? Does student use capitals when writing a sentence? Does student use proper punctuation (periods, question marks) when writing a sentence?
  • Does student express interest in earning the reward? (Ex. I cannot wait to get my stuffed animal once I write 10 responses.)
  • Is the contracted being monitored? (Does student put check mark or sticker after every successful writing time?)
  • If goal is time sensitive, review progress at the midway point, and every day or week depending on goal.

References: 

Allen, L. (1993). Use of Contingency Contracting To Increase On-Task Behavior With Primary Students. Psychology Reports, 72, 905-906.

George, R. (2001). The Behavior Contract: A Tool For Teachers. St. Louis, Missouri: Project Innovation.

Miller, D., Kelley, M. (1994). The Use of Goal Setting and Contingency Contracting For Improving Children’s Homework Performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 73-84.

Building Social Skills

“If school is to help student learn to develop into adults who can work collaboratively, contribute to society, problem solve, live independently, and develop meaningful relations, we must continue to explore how to infuse the teaching of social thinking and related skills into the curriculum, both within academic lessons and within the social curriculum.”

-Learners on the Autism Spectrum by Kari Buron and Pamela Wolfberg

 

orphans, children in Africa

Social Studies Review: 4th Grade Small Group Activity

Reviewing for assessments that cover a wide range of material can be hard to do in an engaging fashion. After finishing our unit 3 material in Social Studies, I planned an eight center review game that reviewed the US regions, NJ regions, climate, weather, landforms, and natural resources.

Group work can be difficult for some students. Giving students specific jobs can be one way to avoid typical behavior problems found when implementing small groups. For this Social Studies review, I decided to use a spy theme to encourage student engagement in all areas of center work.

My small group jobs focused on transition time, noise control, and jobs within the group setting.

Please reference and use my Social Studies: Spy Theme Review PowerPoint to access the description of the following positions: Secret Service Messenger, Group Spy, Mr./Mrs. Hat, Noise Detectives, and The Watch.

An outline of the activity is found below: 

Each center was given a “secret mission”. Each secret mission contained one or two activities, and an extension activity if a student was to finish early.
  1.  Station One. Explain how a wooden table is made. Use the words: natural resources, raw materials, and processed in your response. If time, illustrate the steps you described above.
  2. Station Two. Identify six renewable and nonrenewable resources using the graphic organizer provided. If time, why are people considered resources?
  3. Station Three. Design a post card using the yellow paper to describe the difference between the Inner and Outer Atlantic Coastal Plain. Write the message first, and then illustrate if you have time. (Example provided in folder)
  4. Station Four. Create a song about the different types of landforms. Include atleast 4-5 different types. Also try to include the locations of the landforms (where they are found in the US).
  5. Station Five. Compare and contrast weather and climate using a Venn Diagram. (Students were also given five questions to answer–multiple choice)
  6. Station Six. Draw a picture of the water cycle. Label the four steps. If time, create a story about the water cycle, using the character of a water drop.
  7. Station Seven. Label the 5 regions of the United States on the map provided. Create a key that color codes each section.
  8. Station Eight. Use the map provided to label the four regions of New Jersey. Put a star next to the region we live in.
Each station contained a yellow envelope that was labeled (Secret Mission #____). Inside each envelope contained a blue Task Card that outlined the specific activity that was to be completed at each station. You will notice that each card consist of vocabulary words (Bloom’s Taxonomy) that measure the different levels of difficulty.
Each student was given a clipboard with paper.
Teachers’ role: Facilitators, frequent check-ins for each group, collect information on what students need to review, ask clarifying/guiding questions.
Activity: Two day span, review answers on second day once students complete every station. Activity acts as a formative assessment. A Jeopardy review game will be made based on misconceptions/topics that need to be reviewed for the SS Common Assessment on Tuesday.
Groups and Roles: Pre-determined
Students also reflected on their roles within their groups at the beginning and end of the lesson. Students determined self-goals at the beginning (such as ask group members two clarifying questions, stay on task, and use polite language) and then reflected on those goals when we were cleaning up material.

Teaching the 5 Literary Elements

“Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme, Setting…” An interactive Prezi presentation that teaches the five literary elements through style and song.

Recommended Use: 3rd to 8th grade (Applicable in high school for some students/settings)

 

Other video resources can be found on BrainPop.

Experience Autism through Video

Ever wonder what it is like to feel over-stimulated? Carly Fleischmann shows through video what it is like to experience sensory overload in everyday settings.

Video 1: Coffee shop

Video 2: Walking down the street 

3. Video 3: Shopping at a store

Carly Fleischmann created these videos through her own experience. As we know, every individual sees the world through a different lens, which can lead to a different experience than those shown above. The reason I still appreciate these videos are that they highlight important characteristics that are common with those who experience sensory overload:

1. Increased brightness

2. Jumbled noise

3. Sensitivity to certain smells

4. Distracted by individual objects that become the complete focus of the individual 

Creative History Assignment

Looking for ways to make history more exciting….especially for your musically inclined students. Check out this video of Brianna Perez singing “If we had a chance” to the tune of “If I were your man”

In an assignment asking students to differentiate between Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr., Brianna Perez and classmates wrote lyrics to express their understanding of how time and power affects the world around us.

Beautiful lyrics, great singer, and an engaging assessment of knowledge.