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Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's About Time, Teachers, for 2015

It's about time, teachers, for 2015.  Are you ready?

Every new year, I make a teaching resolution to work smarter, not harder.  To that end, I have some suggestions that may help YOU work smarter, rather than harder.  

*Before you leave your classroom for the last time in 2014, remove all traces of the holidays. Upon your return in Jan., such leftovers will be about as welcomed as the proverbial fruitcake.  If you can rustle up enough energy, change your bulletin boards now.  You've earned a break. You need a break.  Don't go into school during your break!

*After decades in the classroom, the thrill of changing bulletin boards has long passed. To that end, I like to get as much mileage out of my bulletin boards as possible. So, I have created boards that work as learning centers, anchor activities, and/or enrichment experiences. Moreover, I like boards that last the whole month long.  

This one is from How Many Ways? -- Jan. EditionSimilar to Boggle(TM), the challenge in this activity is to arrive at a given number in many different ways. It readily provides differentiation by allowing the teacher to choose between 2 questions: one asks students to count to the target number; one requires students to use basic operations to arrive at the target.

Reproduce the mitten icons and place them on a bulletin board along with the How Many Ways? question of your choice. When using the basic operations challenge, select the math operation(s) appropriate for your students and post them, as well. Then invite your students to determine how many ways they can reach the target number. Enough target numbers are included to allow you to change the target each day, if you so desire.

This activity is CCSS aligned. It requires students to think critically while practicing math skills. What could be better than an activity that challenges your students in multiple ways?  

*Prepare all the materials you will need for the 1st week back.  If you employ thematic units, you may be interested in starting the new year off with Hats! Hats! Hooray for Hats! in preparation for National Hat Day on Jan. 15. This unit integrates ELA, math, HOTS, and creativity. The resources include:
Language arts
· Book links
· Compound words 
· Idioms 
· Vocabulary
· Comprehension
· Poetry
· Riddles 
· Handwriting practice
· Alphabetical order
· Writing
· Verbal fluency
· Counting
· Computation
· Graphing
· Patterns
· Venn Diagrams
· Math Journal prompts
· Sorting
· Measurement
· Money
Higher Order Thinking Skills
· Analysis
· Evaluation
· Creation
· Arts & crafts project

Materials for literacy and math centers are included, as well as homework assignments. A perennial favorite of my students are the hat riddles we use for critical thinking, morning message, and handwriting practice.  Here's an example:

          His hat is striped in white and red.
          He put a pink stain on mother’s bed.
          Who is he?

My kiddoes can hardly wait for our morning meeting to share the answer to the riddle. (The Cat in the Hat)

*Another teaching resolution I make is to stretch my teaching repertoire into a new area.  So 1 year I resolved to incorporate more creative thinking opportunities.  The result was Destination: Imagination via Creative Thinking (Vol. I). (Vol. II will be launched soon.) 

This is an eclectic collection of activities originally developed for use with my gifted and talented classes. The goal of these activities is to promote the 4 traits of gifted children: fluency, flexibility, elaboration and originality. But really, what child wouldn't benefit from working on those aspects? I have found the project works very well with heterogeneous groups and have successfully used it with 1st - 5th graders.

These activities are structured to be used in 1 week intervals: assignment sheets go home with a due date; products are shared one week later. This product includes copy ready assignment sheets in color and black line, notes to the teacher, and participation certificates. Some are designed to be used seasonally; others are appropriate to any time of the year.

To ensure that you enjoy your winter break, plan for January NOW! It's about time -- your time!

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