Monday, August 27, 2012

First Week of School and Open House Activities

I love the start of the school year.  I think its so amazing to bring a group of children together and form a strong bond throughout the school year.  Spending the first two weeks focusing on routines, rules, and getting to know you activities helps all students feel like they belong.  One of the first things I make sure to put in place is a Morning Meeting where we can meet as a group and play name game activities and getting to know you games.  We make sure to play some Name Bingo over the first two weeks, with game boards filled in with all students names.  This helps children remember each others names, which is an integral part to learning more about each other.  The first day is getting to know the teacher, the classroom, the school, and routines.  Taking a tour of the classroom, and pointing out important places helps students understand where things are.  Practicing activities such as fire drill and lock down procedures help students know what is expected at all times.  By day 2 and 3, a lot of time can be spent on friendship, similarities, and differences.  The sharing of "Me Bags" gives each child an opportunity to shine, sharing special things from their life.  Read alouds focus on what it means to be a good friend, with writing activities to follow.  Each of my students write "I can be a good friend by..." activity where they share ideas of what they can do.  I also have students decorate themselves on cut-outs, and create a classroom poster to hang outside the door, "Together as friends we make one great classroom community!"  This helps to make each child feel like they belong.  I added the students friendship writing all around to be our welcome into the classroom display.

Through several other activities, such as Similarities and Differences, where students work with a partner and create a Venn Diagram of ways they are alike, and ways they are different, students continue to celebrate each other.  For the rest of the first week, we celebrate each individual student and what makes them special.  We read aloud, I Like Myself, and create self portraits. 

We learn about Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and students learn the many different ways they are smart.  This helps each child realize that they ARE smart in different ways.  We color code pie charts which shows the top four ways each child is smart.  This makes all students feel as if they belong, and set them up for a successful year in second grade.

Students have the opportunity to write about their Wish for Second Grade and we post that in the classroom as well, as the first writing activity.  These are all hanging up as classroom displays that make the classroom very inviting for both the students, and parents as they come in for Open House. 
Another activity I tried for the first time this year, was having each child create a Wordle on, a Word Cloud of words that describe themselves. They start by creating this list in their Writing Journal, and then typing it into Microsoft Word.  I made sure that each child typed his/her name 4 times so that it would come up as the biggest word in the Wordle.  My students wrote between 10 and 30 words.  One at a time I called my students up to my computer, and we worked together to copy and paste in the words, then choose the font, direction, and colors.  When each child was satisfied with the Wordle, I printed them out for their writing binder, and put a copy into Microsoft PowerPoint, which will run on a loop during open house and feature each child on a screen with Meet _______(students name), picture, and Wordle.
Here is the example of my Wordle I showed to help my students:

 I am looking forward to the second week of school where we continue to build a classroom community, and build up each childs' self-esteem.  I plan on reading The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown tomorrow, and having each child use the familiar pattern in the book to write a poem for their parents to have on the desk during Open House.  For example, "The important thing about my mom is she loves me...." where the whole poem reflects a page in the book.  The parents love to see what their child wrote about them on Open House night, and I even leave a blank copy of the poem for the parents to fill in about their child, so the children have a surprise to come back to the next morning.   As a final little present for the parents, I created a Star Magnet that can be hung on the refrigerator to display their children's work during the school year.  It's an added little gift that parents appreciate, and students love. 

Remember the key to a great school year is helping each child feel comfortable in the classroom, aware of routines, a lot of time to practice, and build a positive rapport between you, the students, and the parents.  A successful year comes from a blending of a positive classroom community, highly engaging academic activities, and an understanding of each child for the unique person that they are, in order to differentiate instruction appropriately throughout the school year!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First Day of School!

I cannot believe tomorrow starts another school year.  I am looking forward to what this year has in store for me and my new group of students.  I was fortunate to have spent the morning at school yesterday during Campus Visitation and had the opportunity to meet almost all of my students and their families.  What is it they say about the first day of school?  Get students here, get them fed, and get them home safely.  Those are the 3 key things for the first day of school.  I hope to begin to build a positive classroom culture and community.  I hope for all my new students to feel welcomed, happy, and looking forward to the next 179 days together.  I hope to know all of my students names and faces by the end of the day.  I cannot wait to start read alouds again and find out interesting facts about each child.  We will work on routines and creation of classroom rules together.  As this year is ready start, I know I need to get a good night sleep tonight, as I am hoping that each of my children gets as well, and I ask myself the pressing question, what am I going to wear tomorrow?  For everyone else that is about to start school too, have a wonderful start of a new school year!