May 22, 2015

20 Creative Ways to Encourage Good Behavior at the End of the Year

Advice from Real Teachers Series

Do you dread the last few weeks of school because your students are full of energy and unable to focus? Administrators might say to stick to your routines and keep your kids busy with regular assignments, but that didn't work for me. Making my students do seatwork at the end of the year was like putting a lid on a pressure cooker, turning up the heat, and wondering when it was going to blow sky high!

For me, it was far more effective to do something different at the end of the year, something meaningful but exciting enough to keep my kids interested and on task. I described 12 of my favorite ideas in an article called, A Dozen Fun Ways to Wrap Up the School Year. But before you head over to that page, take a look at the awesome responses below to a teacher question that was posted on my Teaching Resources Facebook page on this very topic.

Featured Teacher Question
Last week Michelle asked, “I'd love to hear creative approaches to what other teachers are doing to keep negative behaviors at bay in the last 20 days of school. I'm a second grade teacher, and my kiddos are convinced it's already summer break! We still have standardized tests and many other things to accomplish this year and I'd like to get through it all without constantly feeling like I'm threatening to remove privileges. Ideas?”

Top 20 Creative Ways to Encourage Good Behavior
There were so many terrific ideas that I decided to compile them into a new article in my Advice from Real Teachers Series. Here are 20 of the most creative suggestions; if would like to read them all, click over to my Facebook page where you'll find them. The first idea on the list was by far the most popular, so I listed it at the top. The rest of the suggestions are not in any particular order.
  1. Heather Collingwood - Have you tried the idea of a Secret Agent? You make secret agent cards for each of the students' names, select one at the beginning of the lesson/day and out it in the secret agent envelope. At the end of the lesson/day, if the child has behaved/had a good lesson/day, the whole class is rewarded (with a raffle ticket in their prize box, with a 2 minute game at the end of the day or whatever reward you choose). The secret agent is never revealed whether they win the reward or not so there is never any negativity towards them. All children will want to behave because it may just be their name that is in the envelope. It then becomes the collective responsibility of the class to ensure they get their reward. This way, you are not taking anything away from the class if a certain person doesn't behave appropriately. They only have something to gain and no one can be blamed if the reward isn't received.
  2. Joan Wilson - We are doing a living biography project. After reading & researching, they have to cut out a head/arm holes in a poster board and decorate it to look like their person. Then they will "talk" as that person all about their life & accomplishments. It always keeps them engaged and on task in a fun and creative way!
  3. Joline Keeler - I like to use centers that are hands-on and engaging for math and science. I also bring back some of their favorite games and activities from throughout the year. For language arts, I have the kids work on reader's theater plays.
  4. Linda Young - I'm having mine make maps of their choice- showing longitude, latitude, and scale. I've also had them do a mini research project using online resources, a book source, and an interview for added information. They are making visuals of their material to share at the end of the week. We are just finishing our whole class novel study of Charlotte's Web (with comprehension questions too). I've also introduced more STEM activities since the state testing finally ended. I've found it best to keep them busy!
  5. Joy Jefferies - We do a pickle party every two weeks for the last six weeks. If the class earns enough behavior points by the Friday of week two they get pickles and an hour of game time for prizes. A good time to rid my room of extra pens, pencils, anything I don't plan to keep for the next year.
  6. Lisa Marie - I'm using a lot of games built around what we are working on. Scoot, Team Question answering, trivia contests for vocalizing open response questions and deeper thinking, knowledge bowl type games, "spelling bee" games for any info....
  7. Ally Alexsonshk - Writing a letter to the next class or reflecting on memories is always a fun thing to do. Create instructions for the next class to create a time capsule or take some time to focus on their interests.....if you don't have much curriculum to finish ask then what they're doing over the Summer, maybe they're traveling so show the class the area they are going to or maybe they're going to visit a museum do some research on it look at the website.
  8. Pe Howell - We are doing an ABC countdown calendar, and last year it was great! Each day, here was a little activity to look forward to, and it helps get through the DRA testing, fact fluency assessment, end-of-year math assessment, and all of the other assessments that are done at the end of the school year. I am even looking foward to it because it starts this Thursday, with stuffed "animal" day! I'm going to have my class make trading cards, and I'm going to take pictures of each student in my class with their stuffed animal.  This activity is a wonderful way to start the countdown to the last 26 days of school.
  9. Katie Eskridge - We make a book hall of fame- they write up reports on the best novel they read this year and give them an award. I save them and it's my first bulletin board for next years fifth graders. Kid made recommendations!
  10. Karen  Martz - Maybe some collaborative learning projects which can be used as a culminating activity opposed to traditional assessments outside of standardized testing. Also, instead of threatening, do what you say will happen. After a few times some will understand privileges are earned, not given. They will also help to remind others who aren't willing to grasp that concept to catch on much quicker.
  11. Adajean Rothberg - We have 3 days left.  I pulled out the money unit, not common core but needed for the last 2 weeks and they've been earning money for everything.  They are really enjoying it and behaving since this best behaved and hard-working get more money.  As I'm packing up the room, the things I would usually send home I've been pricing and we're having a "yard sale"  It's working wonders kids.
  12. Yvette Shadrick -!! It helps them release energy and calm down!  Have them earn points with Class Dojo for a prize instead of taking things always! Have them create new class rules now that they are "older and wiser" they will come Up with some great more than five! Catch them being good! Give them attention when: on task, being respectful, being kind, participating etc.
  13. Dawn-Marie Jackson - I've been doing a science experiment each day if they keep the behavior on track. We never had time all year for experiments so I'm throwing them in now. I also do a tally reward. Every time I hear another teacher compliment my students or class or if they are exceptionally on task, I put a tally on the board. At 10 tallies they earn a tally party. I give them a choice between 3-4 things: Popsicles, eat in the classroom, bring a board game to school, etc. They love it!
  14. Angela Lawler - Try to out-energize them! Or do some of those awesome Science demos you've been wanting to do - clouds with water, shaving cream, and food coloring, or make OOBLECK with cornstarch and water, read the Dr. Seuss book and then debate if oobleck is a solid or liquid, eat some fractions (Skittles, M&Ms, graham crackers and icing, ...).
  15. Sandy Kalson - Promise fun rewards instead. They will monitor each other. Let them offer suggestions for one a week. Write each one on a piece of paper and draw one at random or let them vote each week.
  16. Sara Quinn - Bubbles! Get each kid a small bottle of bubbles and put their names on them. The bubbles sit on their desks and you take them away as needed. At the end of the day those with bubbles left get to blow them outside while the others sit and watch. Refill bottles as needed. All bubble bottles are returned each morning.  Good luck!
  17. Colleen Beecher - Give them a "Free Recess", but they have to earn it. Tell them they will have an extra recess at the end of the day. Write FREE RECESS on the board. Every time they act up, erase a letter. Be very strict about it. If there are still letters on the board, they earned it! I usually am very strict about erasing, but when they are on target and working hard, I will usually add a letter back. Just make sure you don't give them the recess if they don't earn it!
  18. Jennifer Neuhof - Revamp your incentives. Change seats. Alter routines to make the 'same boring thing' seem fresh. Stay a step ahead of them. Know when to cut a lesson short. Create lessons to incorporate movement and finally include many wiggle breaks into your day.
  19. Millie Ervin - Don't let the tail wag the dog. Think 'camp director' and make sure you fill up their agenda with interesting activities each day. I used to be able to find a bubble gum contest kit at store. So much fun!!  So many other fun things to do!! Now's your chance!!
  20. Kelly Raney - At the beginning of each day, give each child 3 tickets. Have them write their name/number on the back. As the day progresses, those students who do not make good choices, lose a ticket. At the end of the day, collect all the tickets, put them in a container, and draw for small treats, prizes or special privileges. The next day, everyone starts with 3 new tickets. Works like a charm!
Do you have any of your own end-of-the-year activities to share? If so, please post them in a comment below. If you would like to submit a teacher question of your own, be sure to watch for the Question Connection announcement every Wednesday at 8:30 pm EST on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through! Working together, we can accomplish more!

May 18, 2015

Getting Started with Whole Brain Teaching

Have you heard of Whole Brain Teaching? To keep it simple, I'll just say it's an exciting method of delivering instruction that keeps students actively engaged in the learning process. Because students are moving, talking, writing, reading, and THINKING, they are using all parts of their brains.

These lessons could easily become chaotic, but the WBT approach includes management strategies to keep instruction on track. Right away, students learn the 5 "classroom-transforming" rules shown on the right. Last summer, Chris Biffle, the founder of the Whole Brain Teaching movement, offered to write a series of guest blog articles on Corkboard Connections introducing these rules. Chris wrote about each rule individually, explaining WHY it's important and exactly HOW to teach that rule to your students. If that sounds boring, you don't know Chris! (Click here for the first article in the series.)

Newly Updated WBT Classroom Rules Posters
I love to create teacher resources, so I offered to design a set of free classroom rules posters to go along with Chris's blog series. That set featured clipart of young children, so I frequently get requests for a set that has older students. Today I created a brand new set of posters using the adorable characters from Whimsy Workshop Teaching. These children look a little older so the set should be perfect for upper elementary classrooms. Both the original set and this new one are included in the Whole Brain Teaching Rules Posters freebie in my TpT store.

Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids
If you are brand new to Whole Brain Teaching, the easiest way to get started is to read Chris's best-selling book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids. His writing style is very entertaining and will have you laughing out loud, but there's a lot of meat in the book, too. Be sure to get a pack of sticky notes so you can mark important pages and return to them as you implement the strategies. You'll also find free information and videos on the Whole Brain Teaching website, but be forewarned - there's so much on the site that it can be a bit overwhelming on your first visit!

If you haven't heard about Whole Brain Teaching before, you might not want to start using the entire system this school year. However, if you're game for it, there are many easy-to-use strategies you can try out with your current class to get a feel for the techniques now. Then take your time reading about Whole Brain Teaching and checking out the free resources on the website so you'll be ready to go in the fall.

I wish I had learned about Whole Brain Teaching when I was still teaching because it sounds truly transformative! If you've had a tough school year, WBT might be just what you need to turn things around next year!

Disclaimer: Affiliate link included in this post. 

May 15, 2015

Gallon Robot: Fun with Measurement and Fractions!

Who can remember how many cups are in a gallon and how many pints are in a quart? I have to admit that I used to look this information up every time I needed it. The amounts are so arbitrary and random that I couldn't seem to memorize them. That all changed when I met Mr. Gallon, whom I affectionately renamed with the gender-free term Gallon Robot.

Variations of Mr. Gallon are all over the Internet, and I'm not sure if anyone knows exactly who dreamed up the concept. I first heard about it when my older daughter Wendy was in 3rd grade. Her teacher, Sue Simon, introduced her students to this visual aid so they could easily remember the conversions between gallons, quarts, cups, and pints. The large rectangle in the middle represents one gallon, the four pink rectangles represent four quarts, the green rectangles represent pints, and the small orange rectangles represent cups. When you look at the model, it's easy to see that there are 8 pints in a gallon, 2 pints in a quart, and so on. As soon as I met Mr. Gallon, I never had to look up those amounts again! I immediately taught the model to my 5th graders and began sharing the technique with teachers.

Relating Customary Capacity Units to Fractions 
One thing that I love about Gallon Robot is how you can use this model to reinforce fraction concepts at the same time that you are reviewing customary units of capacity. I created a comprehensive packet of teaching materials to go along with the basic patterns shown above to make it easy to teach these concepts. Gallon Robot to the Rescue is available from my TpT store .

 Gallon Robot to the Rescue - a great resource for teaching customary capacity and fraction concepts!

When I created the patterns for Gallon Robot, I was very careful to make each part fractionally correct so that students can explore how the units are related. After students cut out all the pieces, they can use them in a fraction lesson before assembling them into Gallon Robot. For example, when students place the four quart patterns on top of the gallon pattern, they will see that four quarts equal one gallon. The patterns are black and white outlines, and I suggest printing each part on a different color paper to help students distinguish between them.

Gallon Robot to the Rescue includes cooperative learning activities, math center games, word problems, printables, teacher demonstration pages, and more! Here are a few sample pages from this resource, including a fun game called Fill 'Er Up in which students answer questions, spin a spinner, and add cups, pints, or quarts to their gallon buckets. The first to fill his or her bucket is the winner!

Gallon Robot to the Rescue is not a new product, but I did give it a brand new cover today. As I was working on updating it, I decided to feature it on my blog because it's a terrific, easy-to-use resource for teaching a difficult topic. If you teach customary units of capacity, you owe it to yourself to take a look at this time-saving resource. I also updated the cover of Customary Measurement Conversions, and if you don't have that ebook, you might want to check it out, too. With the activities in these two resources, your students will have fun as they learn to master customary measurement conversions!