Back To Class!

Well, it’s been a year since “Teacher, teacher!” has been up and running. A lot has happened in that year. I moved and changed jobs! I went back to the classroom, 4th grade more specifically. I decided to take a break from posting and focus on teaching (it has been 16 years since I was in the classroom as a teacher)! backtoclassIt was a successful year and I am eager to get back at it; both school and posting.

 

I hope you will find my posts both informative and helpful. Feel free to use any of the information or ideas you find here. I will be posting helpful hints, lessons I’ve learned, successes and failures, recipes, and humorous stories.

Stay tuned!

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The Two Most Dreaded Words…

Indoor Recess! Two of the most dreaded words any teacher must utter.

How can you take the difficult challenge of indoor recess and turn it into a positive?  Well, it’s impossible to make it as much fun as outdoor recess, but here are a few small suggestions to make it bearable for you and your kids:

  • Offer some structured activities that don’t seem too structured.  Part of what makes kids love recess is that its “their” free time, and you don’t want to mess with that too much.  Offer choices and give the kids the opportunity to select the activities that interest them that day.
  • In anticipation of the inevitable indoor recess day, fill a bin with board games, puzzles, comic books, toys, travel games, craft projects, and art supplies.  You might check your local thrift store or ask for “hand me downs” from parents in upper grades.  It’s important that these items be reserved only for indoor recess day.  If these items are exclusively available for only those times, they will feel like a treat and add some unique excitement and fun to the day.
  • Give students the components of a game (a few beanbags, some tape, rolled-up socks, paper towel rolls, yarn, etc.)  Challenge them to invent a new game or adapt an existing sport into something that’s safe and fun for indoor play.
  • Gather the group and watch a movie or Youtube clip (something fun.) Add a play component to the viewing by creating a scavenger hunt or BINGO game, specific to the clip you’re viewing.  Example:  when you see someone wearing a hat in the clip, you can check it off your list, get a point, or mark it on your BINGO card.

 

Playgrounds of Knowledge

When kids are asked to choose their favorite time of the school day, the majority say recess.  (A few might say lunch.) This comes from the fact that on the playground, students are totally engaged. They are physically, mentally and socially engaged; their imaginations are firing, their bodies are active, and they are connecting with a circle of friends and competitors of their own choosing.

If we as teachers could bring that enthusiasm and excitement into the classroom, we could transform the learning process and impact students exponentially.  Our goal should be to turn our classrooms into playgrounds of knowledge!

Such a transformation will require innovative thinking and ongoing commitment.  The methods will vary by grade level and curriculum, but here are a few brainstorms to jumpstart your creativity:

Think about how a playground is organized:  equipment is provided for structured individual fun (swings, slides, tunnels, monkeybars); seesaws and merry-go-rounds offer activity for a pair or small group; competitive game areas are typically available (e.g., foursquare, hopskotch, basketball, etc.), and where there’s room, there’s usually some wide open spaces for unstructured activities or large group play. 20216673

Your classroom could be arranged with similar intent.  Just like the playground offers individual, pair, small group, and large group opportunities, the classroom should too. Consider these needs when designing lessons and assessments too.  Give students opportunity to choose their own mode of learning (activity) and a customized output (assessment).  If you only offer one way of interacting with a topic or lesson, it’s unlikely that every child will engage.  Presenting information with creativity & variety from multiple vantage points is the key to reaching the largest number of students.

Play to the variety of learning styles that are represented in your class.  Challenge them to collaborate in unfamiliar or inventive ways.  Consciously put children together who are wired differently, have divergent interests, or come from different backgrounds.   Encouraging children to bring their individuality to group challenges can inspire them to grow in amazing ways.

 

Example:  You’re presenting a math lesson on perimeter using manipulatives.  At the start of class, place the manipulatives in bins around the room.  Encourage children to pick a random bin and begin exploring.  Each manipulative station could be themed (a sports arena, a space station, a pet store, a Lego lab, or art “studio.”) Kids will gravitate toward the ones that interest them, and they’ll select their own method (individual, pairs, or groups) based on natural preferences. (Watch them closely, you can learn a lot about a student’s personality and learning style in this way.)  A bit later, give them a specific task, but let them choose their own response to the task initially.  As the session progresses, you can begin to “stir the pot” and move kids out of their comfort zone to work in new areas or split up the cliques to challenge kids into new relationships.  Introducing a competition or game element could be a way to engage in the content with practicality and fun.  Divide the class into two teams, possibly having them line up or arrange themselves into specified areas of the room that you’ve taped off or pre-arranged.  Students pass a ruler from teammate to teammate, keeping track of the dimensions.  The first team to calculate the perimeter is the winner.

You could also connect the content to other disciplines (a perimeter can be a border, as a geographical, history, or social studies topic.)

The end result of this approach is that children find meaning in the subject matter, and have a higher level of ownership in the content.  They will stay physically & mentally engaged longer, and tap into dormant areas of their brains.  With time and some luck, one day your kids might say learning is their favorite thing about school.  (A few will still say lunch.)