May 29, 2013

3 Easy Ways to Wrap up the School Year

Guest Blog post by Krystal Mills

I know that some of you lucky-ducky teachers have finished for the year already, or are close to it. I, myself, have a solid month left in the classroom. Don't feel too bad for me - we don't go back to class until September! Regardless, if you're like me, it's time to reflect back on the year that was, and maybe even look ahead a little toward next year.

So much has happened this year and my students have grown in so many ways, as I'm sure yours have. I encourage you to make time for a discussion with your students about what each of them has learned this year. What do they know now that they didn't know before? It'll make for an interesting conversation at the very least, and will provide the platform needed for you to try any of the three ideas I have for you below.

Three easy (and low prep) ideas to incorporate into your class as you wrap up your school year!

1) "Our Quilt of Knowledge"
Give each of your students a square of paper and have them write one or more things on the square that they are glad to have learned this year. It doesn't have to be academic! It could be sports related, extracurricular, social, behavioral or a life lesson. Students could also draw a little something on their square, color it with markers and/or make a border around their square to make it a little special.

Then, take the squares and arrange them to create a "Quilt of Knowledge". Laminate, if possible, and make sure to show next year's group at "Back to School Time" all of the exciting things that they will learn in their new grade. This would be a perfect "Back to School" bulletin board idea!

2) "A Little Advice for Surviving Grade ___..."
After reflecting back on the year that was, have your students write a short "advice column" to next year's class. Advice should be practical things for the new students - things that your current students wish that they would have been told.

Be sure to take the best "advice columns" and share them with your new class in the fall as a bit of an ice breaker activity. Again, this could make a great display for your new students next year. Two birds - one stone!

3) "A Simple Simile"
After students have had a chance to talk about their year, have them create a simile comparing their school year to something either positive or negative (it's more entertaining to have a mixture of both). Of course, you may have to review what similes are, but it's always fun to see how students have viewed their year. There are always a few sourpusses - that's to be expected. Most students, however, will remember the fun times, the many things that they have learned and compare their year to something positive.

"Grade five was like a roller coaster ride - ups and downs, but mostly just fun!"
"Grade six was like making a really hard jigsaw puzzle, it took a whole year and it wasn't easy, but I finally got all of the pieces in the right places."

Similes could be written on to poster board and laminated, again, looking toward next year's students.

I hope that you have had a fabulous year with your students and that you've learned as much as you've taught! I know I have, as I always do. To those of you still finishing up the year (like me) hang in there - I can see the light!
Krystal Mills is a Grade 7 teacher in Prince Edward Island. She is the author of the Lessons From The Middle blog where she shares lessons from the classroom, and occasionally from her life as a mom of two young boys. The goal of this Canadian teacher blog is to share middle school lessons, activities and ideas from her classroom and to collaborate with the wonderful online community of teachers out there as well!

May 9, 2013

Walk, Listen, and Learn: The Walking Classroom

I'm excited to welcome Laura Fenn, the founder of The Walking Classroom, as a guest blogger on Corkboard Connections. Laura created a unique program that enables students to get exercise while learning. I knew you would be inspired by her story! ~ Laura Candler

Walk, Listen, and Learn:
The Walking Classroom

Guest blog post by Laura Fenn

“My students could do this!”

That thought came to me about 5 years ago when I got home from school after a particularly rough day and decided to clear my head with an energizing walk. I grabbed my MP3 player and started listening to a podcast about how volcanoes work. I could feel my mood lifting, I was learning something, and I was getting some desperately needed exercise. And that’s when it hit me:  My 5th graders could do this!

I wrote a grant that night for a class set of MP3 players, and soon my students and I were regularly walking during the regular school day (not PE or recess!) listening to podcasts that I had downloaded from the Internet. The podcasts were somewhat related to the curriculum, but my main objective was truly just to get my students some desperately needed fresh air and exercise (recess and PE had been cut dramatically).

It became very apparent very quickly what a powerful learning tool the walk, listen and learn method was. All of my students were eager to walk and listen everyday (they just thought they were “getting out” of classwork), and what I soon discovered was that my “smart kids” weren't always the best listeners. For the first time, my students with different learning styles were able to show that they were smart too. After an educational walk, children with dyslexia, autism, and especially my ADHD students started to participate in class discussions and brought incredible insight to the lessons, often surprising their peers by showing just how smart they really were—they simply never had the opportunity to learn this way before.

I started writing scripts that were directly aligned to the curriculum standards, and I eventually decided to start a nonprofit organization called “The Walking Classroom.” The Walking Classroom is currently for 5th graders (4th grade is in development and will be ready for the 2013-14 school year) and the program contains a school year’s worth of custom-written podcasts directly aligned to the Common Core. Each podcast is about 15 minutes long and all the podcasts are supported by extensive lesson plans that include comprehension quizzes.  Students improve their physical, mental and academic health while walking, listening and learning.

Today The Walking Classroom is used by thousands of students in 16 states, and the feedback from the teachers and students is always the same: they LOVE it. Schools can purchase the program directly, or if funds are not available, teachers can fill out a brief grant application on our website and we will work like mad to get them a donated set.  

If you’d like to “test drive” The Walking Classroom, 10 podcasts and lesson plans are available for free download from LearnNC, a program run by the University of North Carolina’s School of Education.

Enjoy, and Happy Trails!

Laura Fenn, MS Ed, was a classroom teacher for 10 years. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Walking Classroom Institute, an educational nonprofit created BY a teacher FOR teachers. The program is dedicated to providing teachers with an easy to implement tool that improves the health and education of students.