Back to School 2015

back-to-school-clipart-4What an absolutely beautiful summer we’ve had here in Toronto! Plenty of sunshine and heat – a much needed break from the otherwise crispy weather we are quite accustomed to. Though there is still ample of time to bask in the season’s warmth (so I’d like to believe), many of us teachers are beginning to prepare for the new school year ahead.

As we all know, the first week of school can sometimes be quite nerve-wrecking, filled with newness and a degree of uncertainty (for teachers and students alike). cheerEstablishing firm rules and consistent routines is on every teacher’s immediate agenda. To the same degree however, September is a time of pure excitement and renewed optimism as we get to know our new students and gear up for lots of learning and fun together. Admittedly, this year is especially exciting for me, as I move to teach grade 2. Though I will dearly miss my Kindergarten students, they will be just across the hall from my new room (yay to visiting them often).

togetherRegardless of grade, I like to begin every school year by setting a communal tone in the classroom. After all, if we are to successfully work together for the next ten months, we need to respect and value each other, similarities and uniqueness all the same. With the goal of establishing a sense of togetherness, celebrating individuality and getting to know each other, while easing into a new school year together, I have prepared a few Back-to-School activities. You are more than welcome to download the resources for your personal use in the classroom by clicking the Back-to-School image on the bottom of the post.

Someone Like Me – On the first day of school, ask students fill SomeoneLikeMepicout the sentences on the Someone Like Me template. Then invite them to walk around the room and find classmates that share the same responses. Encourage children to write their friend’s name on the space provided, but be open to allowing them to have their friend write it out for them (this will help lessen the anxiety for those kids who are not yet able to). This serves as a great ice breaker and gets the kids interacting.

My Friendship Promise Student Template – As a class, begin a discussion about the roles and responsibilities of students and teachers in creating a My Friendship Promisefun and safe classroom environment.  As part of that discussion, brainstorm qualities of a good friend and invite students to reflect on why this would be especially important as we begin a new school year together (and of course, all the time). You may want to write some of these ideas down on chart paper for students to reference as they fill out a personal Friendship Promise. Following their writing responses, invite students to have fun creating a mini-me template, adding hair, arms, and legs. Join the templates together and post them around the room so they can easily be referred to during the year. I also like to have a few spare copies around, for students who join the class later in the year.

The Same But Different – As a class, brainstorm ways in SameDiffwhich we are all the same (i.e., we all have feelings, we all have needs, all in same grade/class, etc.). Then discuss what makes us all different and unique as well (i.e., we have different thoughts/opinions, different names, likes/dislikes, etc.). As a culmination of this discussion, invite students to depict these similarities and differences, via writing and/or pictures.

Get to Know Me – Have students fill out the template GettoknowMepicGet to Know Me. Each day, invite 3-4 students to share something about themselves with the class. After each presentation, encourage students to ask questions as a way of getting to know one another better.

Alternatively, you may want to divide students into pairs and ask them to take turns sharing some things about themselves with their partner. Instruct students to learn at least one or two things about their new friend to later share with the class (i.e., This is Josh. He has a hamster for a pet and he loves cherry pies).

Classmate Word Search – Fill out the blank grid with all your WordSearchpicstudents’ names and have them work in pairs (or independently) to find all their classmates names. If there is enough space, you may want to include your name, as well as other teachers that will work with your students this year. This is a a nice activity to use toward the end of the first week of school, since the class list will be more up to date by then and won’t leave anybody out.

Team-Building ChallengeteamDivide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students. Provide each group with a bin of random objects and have them work together to build a free standing structure. Tell students that you will be observing them and taking notes as they work together, but be somewhat vague about how you will pick the winner (shhh, it will be a surprise). Most students will likely assume that the highest structure will win the challenge, but the ultimate goal of this activity will be to see which group can work together best as a team, supporting and including one another. As a reflection, discuss things you saw and heard as you walked around the room and begin a chart on effective teamwork strategies (more ideas can be added to this chart throughout the year).


To download a free copy of the above templates, for your personal use in the classroom, click on the image below.

button.


Books have always been my favourite way to springboard discussions and facilitate activities. There are many wonderful Back-to-School favourites among my collection of September reads. Since it would be difficult to list them all, here are some of my recent findings, among them my new title, Words. I hope you enjoy them. Feel free to let me know of gems in your own collection.


Back to School, Splat!Back to School, Splat!
by Rob Scotton

How can there be homework when it’s only the first day of school? Splat must pick only one of all of his fun summer adventures to share with his classmates at show-and-tell. But in the end, Splat may find that the best part of his summer wasn’t an adventure at all.


It's My SchoolIt’s My School
by Sally Grindley

His sister’s first day of school is Tom’s last day of true independence. On her first day of kindergarten, Alice isn’t really that nervous at all. It’s her brother, Tom, who is upset — in fact, he’s downright mad It’s his school, and why should he have to share it with his annoying little sister?
For any family dealing with first day nerves, this bright and reassuring picture book will help ease the transition into school — both for new students and their older siblings.


Nobody's Mother Is in Second GradeNobody’s Mother Is in Second Grade
by Robin Pulver, G. Brian Karas (Illustrator)

Cassandra’s stories about second grade are so exciting that her mother wished she could be a student again. This wonderful classroom has singing, playacting, math–even a rabbit named Lopsy. But nobody’s mother is in second grade! Cassandra’s mom–who has even saved her old lunch box–to do?It is Cassandra who thinks up the perfect disguise for her mother, and she sets off for school one morning with a beautiful…plant. What do plants and mothers have in common? More than you’d think, as this wacky and endearing tale shows!


First Grade Jitters
by Robert M. Quackenbush, Yan Nascimbene (Illustrator)

Here is the story of a young boy who is about to enter first grade and doesn’t know quite what to expect. Will his friends be there? Will he have to know how to read and spell? What if he can’t understand anything his teacher says? Looks like a case of first grade jitters!


If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't!If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!
by Elise Parsley

Note to self: If your teacher tells you to bring something from nature for show-and-tell, she does not want you to bring an alligator! But nothing will stop Magnolia, who’s determined to have the best show-and-tell of all–until her reptilian rapscallion starts getting her into some major trouble. Now it’s up to Magnolia to find a way to send this troublemaker home–but what could possibly scare an alligator away?


A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade
by James Preller, Greg Ruth (Illustrator)

Arr! It’s the first day of first grade, and it’s all hands on deck for a young pirate and his crew. How much trouble can they get into? What will they do at recess? And, most important, what treasure awaits them at school?


Oliver & PatchOliver & Patch
by Claire Freedman, Kate Hindley (Illustrator)

When Oliver finds a little lost dog he makes his first friend in the big new city. A stunning new book from Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley. Oliver is finding the big city a lonely and scary place but when he finds a little lost dog he makes his first friend in the city. The trouble is, he knows that somewhere out there someone is missing the little dog just as much as he is loving having him, So, with a heavy heart, Oliver sets about doing the right thing. A beautifully told story with a lovely, uplifting ending.


Sam and Gram and the First Day of School:
by Dianne L. Blomberg

Gram helps Sam get ready for his first day at school. The story takes the child hour-by-hour through a typical first day at school, so that the child will know just what to expect on his or her own big day. There are two special sections – Things To Do and Things To Talk About.


My Best Friend Is As Sharp As a Pencil
by Hanoch Piven

Here’s the perfect back-to-school gift for budding artists. Like the creator’s previous picture book, My Dog Is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, this picture book encourages children to be creative and make their own object portraits. It’s a fun activity for home or for the classroom. Learn how to create a funny librarian, a colorful art teacher, or your best friend by seeing how one girl does it in this simple, playful picture book that’s comprised of portraits made of objects. Once the girl has talked about—and drawn—the key figures in her school, she ends with the pièce de résistance—a class portrait!


Words
by Lora Rozler

In this emotional and highly visual picture book, a lonely letter sets off on a journey to find meaning. As it encounters various letter combinations, it is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice. Readers of all ages will be captivated by this simple, yet high concept, rich story that explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. Both timeless and original, Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy.


Have a wonderful week back everyone!

Lora

Advertisements

Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentine-heart-girl

I made you a card,

With a poem in it too.

As my way of saying

Our friendship is true!

boy-with-flower

I picked out a flower

I got it for you.

It is my way of showing

How much I love you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  

Lora Rozler


bearTo download a free copy of the poem for your personal use in the classroom, click on the bear image to the right. 

Happy Valentine’s Day by Words On A Limb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – and what better time to show our family and friends just how dear they are to us (not that we should forget to do so during the rest of the year). So let’s take out the scissors and glue and get crafting!


Here is a free template for a valentine card craft. Simply photocopy (on plain, coloured or construction paper), fold in half (bear side up), and have students select from various greetings to decorate and glue inside the card. You may want to give students the option of drawing and writing their own greeting as well. I like to have several options available to accommodate many needs and levels.

Here are six greeting options:

Greetings

IMG_20150202_143758 IMG_20150202_145134

A sample of the finished product


bucket-filler2

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is one of my favourite picture books to build a great discussion on what it means to be a good friend.  The book helps students understand the concept of happiness and the role we play in creating it for ourselves and those around us. The language of bucket-filling has become associated with kindness and thoughtful acts.

In a previous post that focused on peace-making, I referenced this book and included free writing templates that encouraged students to fill each other’s buckets by writing Smile-O-Grams. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to revisit this activity and remind students of the importance of positive messages. Click on the templates below to visit my previous post and download free Smile-O-Gram templates for your personal use in the classroom.

Written iconBlank


Here is a really cute friendship-building poem I came across online. I especially love that it includes students’ names and gives it a personal feel. It is also a great way to teach students about action words. I plan on sharing it with my students this week and having fun with verbs while we are at it. Thank you Cliparts for the image contribution.

Friend of Mine


What’s Valentine’s Day without some friendship-building games. Here are some activities I have planned for next week. I’d like to thank my wonderful ECE, Deepa Talwar, and friend and colleague, Lucas Hannahson for their contributions.

valentines-day-kidsMy Other Half | Preparation: Cut out enough hearts so that each student has half of a heart (i.e., for 30 students you will need 15 hearts).  Make sure to cut each heart down the middle in a different way (i.e., big zig-zags, small zig-zags, waves, jagged lines, etc.). How to Play: Distribute the halves randomly among the students. Instruct players to walk around the room asking “Are you my other half?” while trying to connect the pieces together. When students find their match they sit down and hold their heart together. Partners then ask each other questions and prepare to share one thing they learned with the rest of the class.  It might be a good idea to brainstorm a list of good questions prior to starting – keep the questions posted somewhere around the room for quick reference (i.e., What is your favourite movie? What do you like most about school?).


wheelbarrowIMG_20150203_125346Heart Race | Preparation: Stack 6 plastic or Styrofoam cups together for each team (for a class of 30 students you will have 5 teams). Decorate the top cup in each set with some hearts so it will be different from the others in the stack. How to Play: Divide students into equal teams (if not possible, some players will simply have an extra turn). Line up the teams and have the first player hold their stack of cups.
IMG_20150203_125302IMG_20150203_125337Upon signaling, the first player will begin stacking the cups, from top to bottom. The object of the game is to keep moving the cups from top to bottom until the ‘heart’ cup appears on top again, at which point they pass the stack to the next player and proceed to sit down at the back of the line. The first team to have all their players complete the task, wins the heart race!


girl-making-valentine

IMG_20150203_134500Match My HeartPreparation: Cut and attach a set of 15 pairs of different colour hearts to popsicle sticks (one per child, so if you have 30 kids you’ll need 15 pairs, 15 different colours). How to Play: IMG_20150203_142336Distribute the hearts, one per child. Turn the music on and have students dance around the room . When the music stops, players need to stay in their spot and find a nearby match for their heart. They can stretch or bend to reach their matching heart but cannot move from their spot. Play the music again and continue. IMG_20150203_144153As a variation, or to add more of a challenge to the game, you can also write sight words (or Valentine theme words) and add images to the hearts. This way, not only can colours make a match, but words and pictures as well (either both or else one or the other).


boy-with-valentine-heart-drawing (1)Mystery Valentine | Preparation: Invite students to share one thing about themselves and write it on a mystery card (some students will be more independent than others). How to Play: While gathered on the carpet, read the mystery cards one at a time and invite students to guess who each mystery valentine is. This is a fun way to learn about each other!

 


bear-clipart-2-transparentFriendship Circle | Gather in a circle on the carpet and invite students to take turns sharing something or someone they appreciate (i.e., I appreciate the books we have, I appreciated it when Lily helped me find my glove). Give students the option to say pass if they do not wish to share anything at this point. This is a wonderful community-building exercise that fosters appreciation and encourages the show of gratitude. I like to pass around an object for the children to hold as they speak (in honor of Valentines day, perhaps a flower or teddy bear).


loveLetterLove LetterPreparation: You will need enough alphabet bean bags so that each child has one (for bigger classes you will need more bags – hacky sacks work well as fillers). How to Play: Students sing a variation of the song, Hot Potato while passing around the bean bags in the circle. “Love letter, pass it on, pass it on, pass it on, love letter, pass it on, the letter is – “. The teacher then announces a letter and students look down to see if they have the one that was just called. The student that has the letter goes up to write the letter on the board. Continue on, calling out a different letter each time, possibly spelling a Valentine word (i.e., LOVE, HEART, etc.). Once all the letters in the secret word have been called, students read the mystery word. For more of a challenge, select the letters out of order and have students unscramble them to make up a mystery word.


e2416fafe803443986442d2063a25fa6The Colour of My HeartPreparation: Cut out different coloured hearts so that there are enough for every student to have one. Place the hearts in a sac or box. On chart paper, write up corresponding questions to each coloured heart (i.e., red heart – what is your favourite food; blue heart – What are you most afraid of? etc.). How to Play: While gathered in a circle on the carpet, pass around the heart bag and have every student pull one out. When everyone has a heart in their hand, go around and have students answer the corresponding question to their coloured heart. You may want all the red questions answered first or in the order of the circle.


cute-valentines-day-cupidStuck on YouPreparation: You will need matching pairs of stickers (i.e., for 30 students you will need 15 different pairs of stickers). How to Play: Gather students in a circle and instruct them not peek or talk as you walk around placing stickers on their back. Upon your signal, students walk around and try to find their partner – the person who has a matching sticker to theirs. This is obviously tricky because they will not know what sticker they have. They will be dependent on each other for help, which is a great way to get them talking, listening and problem-solving. When students believe they’ve found their match (again, they will need to rely on others to confirm that this is so), they sit down and peel the sticker off their friend’s back and stick it on their hand.


AND NOW, FOR SOME SINGING… singing-clipart-LcKpyMyMi

If You’re Friendly and You Know It
(Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)

If you’re friendly and you know it, wave hello.
If you’re friendly and you know it, wave hello.
If you’re friendly and you know it,
And you really want to show it.
If you’re friendly and you know it, wave hello.

Substitute with other motions such as give a smile, shake a hand,give a high five.


Do You Know Our Friend?
(Tune: “The Muffin Man”)

Do you know our friend (name)?
Our friend (name), our friend (child’s name).
Do you know our friend (child’s name)?
He/She is really ____ .

Brainstorm words to describe students (kind, bright, creative, sweet, fun, caring).

Continue reading

Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar???

handJar

Shhh, don’t tell them, but it was me!

Here is a fun and tasty idea for the first week back to school …


Print and cut-out enough cookiecookiesLyrics templates so that each student has one with their name written on the back (you may want to invite students who are able to write their name independently, to do so prior to beginning). Place all the cookies in a jar and with all the students sitting in a circle, introduce the song, Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar.  While singing, pull out one cookie at a time and hold it up for the class to read. You may want to help by encouraging students to look at the letters for clues. For example, “This person’s name begins with the letter B, which makes a bbb sound.  I wonder whose name this could be?” If you like having your students wear name tags during the first few weeks of school, you may want to invite them to take off their tags at this point and look closely at the letters in their name. Throughout the day, continue to pull out more cookies from the jar until each child’s name has been called (if you have a small class, one sitting may do).

cookiesWritingYou might also want to revisit this activity with a small group of students or else with a different focus in mind (i.e., sorting: girls and boys, long names and short names; counting: number of letters in each name, number of students; graphing: organizing the information, etc.).  I like to repeat this activity several times during the first couple of weeks of school. Students are quite amused by it and it is a great way to learn each other’s names while learning important skills at the same time. As an extension, I prepared a follow-up writing piece where students are invited to write their name and draw a picture of themselves eating cookies (a great time for an art lesson).  While some students may be able to write their name independently, others may need to copy or trace the letters from their name tag (tracing over a highlighted name works well too).

cookieTemplatesThe jar can then be put to further use by placing it somewhere in the room for students to access during Centre/Play time. Depending on the various skills you introduced with the activity, students may want to explore some of them independently or in a small group (i.e., counting, sorting, etc.).


** To download a copy of the song, cookie templates and follow-up writing activity, press on the cookie jar below.

Please take a moment & let us know if you enjoy this Free Teacher Content by pressing  Like button or visiting us on our Facebook Page.

sketchCookie

Thank you and have a sweet and fabulous start to the school year.

IMG_3779

Lora