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.

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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

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The Perfect Package – Happy Father’s Day!

pkgFather’s Day is just around the corner and what better time to get crafting.

Father’s Day is a special day to honor fathers and father-figures in our lives. In Canada, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, though it is also observed widely on other days in many other countries. Father figures may include step-fathers, grandfathers, brothers or other male figures that help and guide us through life’s journey.

How do we, in turn, honor these prominent male figures?

Some people give cards, chocolates, clothes, accessories or gift vouchers. Others take their father or father figure out to the movies, enjoy a meal together at a restaurant, lounge in a café, or simply enjoy a restful day in the park.

In my classroom, we are preparing for the big day by creating The Perfect Package.

IMG_20150610_144853IMG_20150610_144859IMG_20150610_144902
envelope                             stamp                          address label

IMG_20150611_081441Inside the package – poem and student image


Below is a poem I wrote and plan to share with my students as we begin crafting next week. Keeping in mind that not all children may have a father in their life, I left the recipient open to include a figure that may take the place of a father, whether it be a grandfather, uncle, brother, etc.

imagePoem

Creative Commons LicenseMy Hero by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


To download a copy of the poem and craft kit, for your personal use in the classroom, click on the image below.

package-clipart-package

Morris

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Let the countdown and crafting begin! 

Happy Father’s Day!

Lora

Teaching with Monkeys

monkeysImageOne of my favourite ways to teach combinations of five begins with the story, Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed (bear in mind, I teach Kindergarten but this could easily be adapted to other grades as well). After reading the story, initially exploring rhymes, patterns, and chants, I like to use it as a tool for teaching math facts to five.

monkAs I go through the story again (generally over the span of a few days), I take a moment after each verse to introduce a math fact or draw a composition of the monkeys in relation to the bed (i.e., 5 monkeys on the bed and 0 on the ground; 5 + 0 = 5). By the end of the story, we cover all the combinations of five. While we review the math facts, I draw their attention to the pattern that emerges (i.e., when the number of monkeys on the bed decreases the number of monkeys on the ground increases).  For the rest of the week, I invite 5 different students each day to come up and re-enact the poem while we sing to it.  We continue to review the math facts as we go along.


StickPuppetsAs an extension, and one that students really enjoy, I have students re-enact the story/song using stick puppets.  They begin by colouring and cutting out a template of the bed and the 5 monkeys.  Then they glue a popsicle stick to the back of each monkey and take turns re-enacting the story/song to a partner.  By the end of the week, the stick puppets get sent home with a letter to parents.

makingFive

Here is a class chart we made using the templates from above (photocopied on construction paper). It outlines the various ways Five can be made and serves as a great visual around the math centre.


AssessmentA great way to gage students’ understanding of the concept and evaluate their learning is to have them repeat this activity with bingo dabbers (one colour representing the monkeys on the bed, and another representing the ones on the ground). Each student gets 6 bed templates and uses two colour dabbers to show the various combinations the monkeys could be arranged (i.e., 3 dabs on the bed, 2 on the ground).


CardGame

gameMonkeysHere is a card game I made to help students practice their facts to five and sharpen their memory skills while they’re at it. After introducing it as a whole class activity, I left it at the math station for students to play with during Centre time. I will be sending home a template of the game for families to assemble and enjoy during the March break as well.


sangeh-monkey-forest-101

To download a Teaching with Monkeys resource kit, including the poem, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, stick puppet templates (bed and monkeys), bingo dabber assessment sheets, Gimme Five card game and instruction sheets, click on the monkey.


Now for some more fun with monkeys … enjoy!

Morris

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facebook-20141123-101343Have a fabulous March break!

Lora

Peek-a-Boo, Why Don’t I See You ?

One look out the window on most winter days and your first instinct is to crawl right back into bed and curl up like a ball. But as cozy as that sounds, its not always an option.

We are left to embrace the chilly winter days by adapting to them; poofy jackets, warm boots, wooly hats, furry mittens, snow pants, scarves, ear-muffs – you name it, before you know it, you’re barely recognizable.

But what do animals do during the long and cold winter months? How do they survive? And where are they?

BoyPeek-a-Boo, Why Don’t I See You – Animals in Winter, is a poem I wrote to help children understand how various animals cope during the winter. It introduces the concepts of hibernation, migration and adaptation.

BirdA fun and memorable way to acquaint students with the vocabulary is to form associations with them. (If you enjoy acting every now and then, this is a good time to show off those skills). I began by telling my students that I have a team of ‘scientists’ that will be working with us. I told them that my name was Bernate and asked them to wave and say hi to me, (hence hi-Bernate). Then I pretended to fall asleep (hibernating teacher). They seemed perplexed at first, but smiled when they understood what I was doing. Next, I introduced my pretend assistant named Grate (an invisible bird sitting on my hand) and gestured that he is only mine, (hence my-Grate). Then I pretended to catch him as he attempted to fly away (migrating assistant). Finally, I added our last participant to the mix – a very furry fox named Apt, (add-apt). There I had it, the terminology (and basic meaning) that students would need for the unit was now easily accessible with simple gestures as cues. (I can’t help but smile when I see my students mimicking the gestures I associated with the terms).

AnimalsinWinterPoem

Creative Commons License
Peek-a-Boo, Why Don’t I See You? Animals in Winter by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Here are some fun related activities I created and plan to share with my students throughout our exploration of Animals in Winter. I hope you enjoy incorporating them into your classroom adventures as well.


While we’ve AnimalsforChartAnimalsinWinterChartenjoyed reading many fiction and non-fiction books about Winter Animals, we have equally enjoyed filling a class chart on animals that hibernate, migrate and adapt. Though our list continues to grow each day, I selected various animals to be used in a follow-up sorting activity (sample here).


WinterAnimalsFinal1AnimalsinWinterWinter Wonderland
Students colour, cut, and paste various animals into the appropriate place in the winter wonderland scene.


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BearSleepy Bear  Students use
various craft items (i.e., tissue paper, cotton balls, construction paper, paper bags, twigs, popsicle sticks, and whatever else you can find around your room) to create a home for a sleepy bear. You may or may not want to tell students in advance how these items can be used. I personally enjoy watching what students come up with when they are given free choice, but I do give them a starting point.


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