Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Today I came across a great idea for back to school from another teacher's blog. Blogger Sarah Martin, past second grade teacher, created a "Favorite Things" survey for parents to give to their child's teacher at the beginning of the year. Speaking from experience, I know how wonderful an inexpensive, heartfelt surprise can mean to a teacher! This survey can help spark those ideas! Check it out and if you have a child in school I encourage you to use this or something like it to get to know your child's teacher a little more! This being my first year I am not in the classroom teaching, I will make sure to spoil my own child's teachers to let them know how much I appreciate all of their hard work.
To download the document, please visit the Life Sweet Life blog as she is the author of this survey. Her blog is:
Friday, August 12, 2011
As many of you prepare to welcome back a classroom full of smiling faces soon, I wanted to share a great community building activity that we loved to do in my classroom. On the first day of school, each student is greeted with a puzzle piece waiting for them on their desk. After saying hello their new "neighbors", greeting new friends and putting away their supplies they find a puzzle piece on their desk. The puzzle piece has one large letter written on it that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense yet. I ask them to color the puzzle piece in any way that tells others about them. Whether that be using only their favorite colors on it or drawing what foods they loved the most - their imagination is the limit - as long as they are able explain why they colored the puzzle piece the way they did. I ask early finishers to also color the back of the puzzle piece.
Once all of the children have arrived and they have had plenty of time to work, I welcome them to our first Community Circle. I ask them to bring their puzzle piece with them and we begin.
After explaining and modeling our Circle Procedures:
1. Mutual Respect ( Only Speak when you have the Speaking Object -Mr. Frog, Eyes on the person talking)
2. Active Listening
3. The Right to Pass
4. Only Speak when you have the Speaking Object (Mr. Frog)
5. Please sit Criss Cross Applesauce, hands in your lap.
Then, we begin. I tell them that today when they arrived in our classroom they may have been feeling many different ways! Some of them were surely nervous while others were extremely excited. I express to them that each of us is feeling a different way and that our feelings are ok! Then, we set our puzzle pieces in front of us in the circle. We work together to put the puzzle together. Depending on what kind of blank puzzle you purchase, this can be sometimes challenging! So, to make it more manageable before the first day of school:
1. Write out on the blank puzzle "You'll fit right in Second Grade" (I taught second) I tried to make sure each puzzle piece had a letter but sometimes that doesn't work out and it's ok if a puzzle piece doesn't have a letter. They won't notice on their desk because they don't see the puzzle as a whole yet.
2. Then, turn all of the puzzle pieces over and NUMBER them! That way, when you use it on the front day of class you don't have a management disaster when you can't figure out the puzzle! Which would also hurt the message you're trying to send of "Each of us have our own place in this classroom and without one of you we wouldn't be complete! So don't worry, you'll fit right in second grade! Welcome to our classroom family"
I would guide the class and and say, "ok if your puzzle piece has the #2 on it, It's your turn to come and find where your piece belongs." Once I've gone through all of the numbers, if there are extra pieces (say 22 students and 24 puzzle pieces) I will place the final pieces and then say, "Does anyone know what this says?"
That question then becomes our first Community Circle question and we talk about what it means to fit in". I also use this as my first opportunity to tell the class that we will do a very special program in second grade called Hearts' Stories to help us understand about what makes us each so unique but also how our differences help us connect!
I encourage you to use this puzzle activity to fit the needs of your class! Adjust it for your grade level as it could easily be modified to fit any grade.
You can order a bare puzzle through www.barebooks.com. They have many different sizes and kinds to pick from. I find the best one for this activity is the large 25x25 puzzle. It costs $5.00 with free shipping to a school address. Or, if you have several team members who are interested in using the activity as well, you can order multiple puzzles for a discounted price.
Even if you don't do Hearts' Stories with your students, this is a wonderful "Back to School" community builder. At the end of the year, one of our final community circles is to put our puzzle back together again! We talk about how when they go to third grade they may feel the same exact way they felt when they entered second grade! I encourage them to remember that they will find their place and fit in 3rd grade as well! Then, I share how they were a very special piece to our puzzle in second grade! Each child then gets to keep their puzzle piece and take it home as a reminder!!
Look closely at the two class pictures, you will notice it's two different days! The beginning of the year and the end of the year!
Rainy Day Recess is a great time to get out the puzzle and let students who are interested put it together! So, as you can see there are many great ways to use this puzzle!!!