Archive for the ‘Classroom Management’ Category

Let’s Talk Centers

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Hello!  I’m super excited and honored to be a guest blogger for Teacher Created Resources!  My name is Staci and I am the author of a  blog called “Let’s Teach Something”.

I teach Kindergarten and I do lots of centers in my classroom.  I do reading centers in the morning that focus mostly on our sight words and spelling words for the week.  I have literacy centers that focus on certain literature (both fiction and non-fiction) and phonics skills.  I also do learning centers in the afternoon.  These centers are a hodge-podge of skills that still need to be taught and/or reinforced in any subject area.  These learning centers include math, computers, puzzles, writing, sensory, art, listening, and surprise.  Surprise center is one of my favorites because I can make it anything to meet the curriculum needs.

Today, I’m here to talk about how I organize my centers- more specifically my afternoon learning centers.  I have 8 centers, so I rotate the material every 8 school days- which could be intimidating, but is really very easy once you get started.  Here’s how I do it:

Cereal Box Centers

Cereal boxes.  Cereal boxes?!?!  You got it!  I put the materials for all 8 centers into a cereal box- then when it’s time for a certain theme, I grab the designated cereal box and it’s all right there!

Here’s how it works:

Learning Center Materials

 

I have an index card listing all the centers- and the skill/activity the students will be doing at that center.

In the above picture, you will notice that it’s “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” theme.  So, here’s what the kids are doing:

Learning Center Activities

Listening:  Listen to a book on tape/CD.  Be sure to leave the CD and books in the cereal box.

Writing:  Students always get a writing prompt.  At the beginning of the year, it’s simply copying the sentence I have written.  As they become more independent, I omit words for them to fill in such as “A tree is ______ and ______.”  Towards the end of the year, all they get is an open ended writing prompt that allows them to be as creative as they want in their writing such as “In the spring, I like to ________________.”  The writing prompt/example is the only thing that goes into the cereal box.

Art:  Students do an arts/crafts project related to the theme.  Here they are making a mouse puppet.  Be sure to include all patterns, master copies, and a finished sample so the kids know what their end goal is to look like.  I do not include supplies, those are stored permanently at the art center itself, plus the cereal box isn’t big enough to hold all everything.

Puzzles:  Students put together a puzzle or do a higher level thinking activity.  I do not include the puzzle in the cereal box.  I only list what puzzle it is, and I grab it from my puzzle bin when it comes time for that theme.

Math:  If it’s an activity meant specifically for the center, it’s kept in the cereal box (like this math activity where they match the number on the cookie to the chocolate chips on another cookie).  If it’s a math activity I use a lot, it’s kept with my other math curriculum materials.

Sensory:  This center is the easiest to plan and probably the students’ favorite.  I have a supply of sensory materials that I rotate through this center: sand, water, rice, tire shreds, plastic Easter eggs, jingle bells, Legos, water beads, etc.  I also have two dust pans to encourage responsibility and it allows the students to help in the clean-up!

Computers:  I have two classroom computers as well as three iPads.  The students are given a computer program or an iPad app to do during their time at this center.

Surprise:  This center is very flexible in that you can put anything you need your students to work on.  Sometimes it’s a holiday craft, other times it’s a skill that wasn’t mastered or just needs a little extra practice.

“I’m finished with my center, what can I do?”
I used to get this question a lot from my students.  Now, I have jobs that they can do when their center task is complete.
Writing:  Students can draw/write with stencils.
Art:  Students can color in a coloring book.
Listening:  Students can use magnet letters to spell words found in the book.
The rest of the centers are un-ending, meaning- they can rebuild the puzzle, keep playing in the sensory tub, or keep playing the computer game/app until center time is over.

Centers are very beneficial for students because they teach the students the skill presented at that center as well as teaching the students how to work together.  If they come across a question or are unsure of something, they are first to ask their center partner before asking me.  It also gives me an opportunity to catch up on any work a student might be missing, do assessments with students, or reteach a concept that was not mastered in a small group.
So, there you have it- my management and organizational tips for the centers in my classroom.  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.

And don’t forget to visit my blog for other tips, tricks, and tidbits I use in my classroom.  Don’t forget to look for all the freebies I post!

See you soon and thanks to Teacher Created Resources for having me!
-Staci
www.letsteachsomething.blogspot.com

 

Staci Schutte, is a Kindergarten teacher and the author of a popular blog called Let’s Teach Something, where she shares tips, tricks, and tidbits that she uses in the classroom. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, two sons and daughter and enjoys running, scrapbooking, and most recently shopping for pink things after having a baby girl a week ago.

 

Classroom Management: The Hunt for a Toolbox

Monday, September 10th, 2012

When I first started teaching, how each day went depended a lot on how benevolent my students were feeling. It is embarrassing to admit that. It’s not as though I didn’t know a lot about classroom management; I just didn’t know how to make it work yet. The weeks went on and I learned every day, but I still had a few students who just had a lot of energy. You know, the ones who hate sitting down at all, who you check in with before class starts so when they need them, they will have that pencil and paper ready, rather than lurking at the bottom of their backpacks under missed assignments that are slowly being turned into pulp with the help of an old banana.

Often these kids had really great attitudes, and most days I was able to keep everyone on task using my limited mental toolbox of classroom management strategies. But there were days, usually days when something different was happening, like rain or a modified bell schedule, when my class was straining at the seams, led by these special, energetic students. I could feel the moment when things started to go downhill, when productive energy got that wild note and I knew it was going to be a long day.

Then one day, a student came into my classroom asking if I had the red toolbox.

“What?” I asked in utter confusion.

“The red toolbox. Mr. V said you might have it,” the kid answered helpfully.

I knew I didn’t have any red toolbox, but since the kid was already there, I looked through any closet or drawer where a toolbox could be hiding. Had there been after-hours repairs on my classroom? Finally, I had to turn him away.

“That’s okay, he said it might be Mrs. L who has it. He couldn’t remember.”

Hmmm.

At lunch, I got the scoop. The red toolbox is the trick that drains that little bit of extra energy while you get the rest of your class back on track. You simply write a hall pass for a student, before anything negative happens but after you see what direction things are heading, and your very energetic student rushes off to do you an important favor. Teachers in the know will look for the box, then suddenly remember that a certain teacher on the other side of the school might have borrowed it. This has to be done carefully, or students can spend forty-five minutes wandering around looking for the red toolbox. It is important to find out where students have already looked, and if you think they’ve been out of class for more than a few minutes, it might be time to say, “Sorry. I just can’t remember who has it. You’d better get back to class.”

In this age of bell-to-bell teaching, I imagine this isn’t a popular strategy for everyone. The idea is that you keep the students exposed to content whether they’re able to participate meaningfully right then or not, right? I say, let them stretch their legs for five minutes and come back feeling good about themselves for helping and ready to learn.

The Flipped Classroom

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I am starting to see lots of information about the “flipped classroom.”  This has grown out of the Kahn model, which was talked about at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference.  Here’s a link to learn more about TED and the Flipped Classroom.

It is the type of thing that I start to wonder about when it comes to education.  While in theory it works really well, it raises a whole host of questions.  Here are some that I have:

  • How much time does it take to prepare the videos that kids need to watch?
  • Does this span every grade level?  Or where should you start with this model?
  • What if there is no computer in the student’s home to watch?
  • How do you deal with the student who hasn’t bothered to do the homework?  (This is an age-old question, but I wonder how this works.)
  • What goes into the video?  It is just a teacher talking, is it clips that make things clearer to the kids?  How much “set design” do you have to do to make kids pay attention?

Here’s a link to a teacher, Mike Gorman, at 21st Education Technology and Learning.  He is also starting to think like this. There is some good information here.

Obviously I am in the nascent stages of learning about the flipped classroom.  But I find the whole concept fascinating.  How about you?  What do you already know that you can share?

Rainy Day Recess Activities

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

I was once in a teaching workshop with a woman who was raised in Alaska.  I remember asking her if it was hard as a kid to not be able to play outside at recess or after school for so much of the year.  I clearly remember her answer:  “Oh, we’d still play outside until it was 20 below.”  I still don’t think I’ve recovered from the shock of hearing that.

Having grown up in California and spent most of my teaching career here, I can’t fathom kids playing outside in that kind of weather.  Luckily, we have such mild temperatures for most of the year that the kids can be outside just about all the time.  That being said, we are not well equipped for the more inclement weather that winter tends to bring.  The only protection the schools have are overhangs extending from the classrooms.  The kids eat their lunches outside every day of the school year, rain, shine, or otherwise.  And there’s nowhere for students to go when it rains at recess, except back into the classroom.

When I was teaching, rainy days usually brought eye rolls and emissions of “Ugh” from the teachers.  The kids tended to be positively squirrelly with pent up energy and noise levels tended to increase exponentially throughout the day.  Perhaps that’s why I always thought it was funny that one of my students’ favorite indoor games was Silent Ball.

Silent Ball entails all the students sitting on top of their desks while a ball is tossed from one student to another in random order.  The object of the game is to stay as silent as possible and not drop the ball when it is thrown to you.  Anyone talking must sit down in their seat and is out of the game.  The last person left sitting on their desk wins. The teacher monitors to make sure that all students are getting equal amounts of chances to catch the ball, and to make sure students are staying quiet.  (I never had to monitor that much because students who were already out were happy to point out if anyone else was talking.)  Surprisingly, this game could keep them entertained for quite a while.

Another simple game the students loved was Four Corners.  One person is picked to be “it” and must close his or her eyes.  The rest of the students choose one of the four corners in the room.  Once everyone is in a corner, “it” calls out North, South, East, or West (or for littler ones: 1, 2, 3, or 4.)  The students in that corner are out and must sit down.  “It” closes his or her eyes again and play continues.  Once there are four students or fewer, they must each pick a different corner.  The last person who is left without his or her corner being called wins, and is now “it” for the next round.

Heads Up Seven Up is a game I loved as a kid, and students still love to this day.  (It seems the simplest ones are always the longtime favorites.)  Seven students are picked to stand in the front of the room while the rest put their heads down on their desks, close their eyes, and stick one of their thumbs in the air.  The seven students each then quietly tap the thumb of one of the students and then return to the front of the room.  Then they say “Heads up seven up!” and the seven students who were tapped have to try and guess who touched his or her thumb.  If he or she guesses correctly, they replace the student who tapped them.  The game begins again once all the students have had a chance to guess.

One game I learned from another teacher didn’t have a name, but is similar to I Have Who Has? in that students have to be listening to cards being read in order.  It requires a few minutes of prep time the first time, but after that the game plays itself.  It’s a great sponge activity as well.  Write out a direction on an index card; have at least as many cards per students in your class.  These can be very simple, such as When the teacher says START, stand up and say GO! The next card read would then read, When someone yells GO, stand up and open the door.  The card after that would read, When someone opens the door, stand up and shake the teacher’s hand, and so on.  Pass out all the cards and then say “START.”  The students have to be listening and observing what’s happening.  One rule I had to institute was that everyone had to wait until the person before them had sat back down in their seat, otherwise it was too confusing to try and follow multiple students doing activities at the same time.  Keep the set of cards to play over again at another time; the students don’t get bored of it!

Most of the above-mentioned games are for younger students, but I was surprised at how much my older students loved the games too.  Of course, rainy days are also a great time to play curriculum-oriented games as well.  If there is a game you’ve played in the past with your students, feel free to bring it back out, even if the subject has already been studied.  It’s great for review!  They may even forget that they’re doing “schoolwork” at recess.