Monday, November 4, 2019

Thanksgiving Bulletin Board

This Thanksgiving bulletin board took several hours to complete (most of it was cutting out the letters and hearts), but I'm so happy with the way it turned out!  

Drawing the turkey body: 
First, draw a large and medium heart for the body and head, a rectangle for the neck, triangle for the nose, and a tear drop for the waddle. The trickiest part for you if you're not feeling artistic will be the legs.  Just do your best!

Cutting and Arranging the Turkey Feathers:
The turkey feathers are simply 3" wide rectangular strips of paper in red, yellow, and orange, along with hearts glued to the tops of each strip.  I wrote the names of each student on the hearts (yep, this is a big class this year!).  I arranged the paper strips on the rug to practice the spacing before stapling them onto the bulletin board.  

The Final Bulletin Board: 
I used a black background to make the colors pop, and finished the turkey with a red heart!

I regret that I don't know where I found the original inspiration for this bulletin board!  To whoever you are, thank you! 💛

Monday, April 17, 2017

Teaching First Graders How to Apologize

Teaching children how to manage and resolve conflict with their peers is just as important as teaching them to read.  I find that I spend at least 1/3 of my class time on SEL issues.  Because it won't matter much how brilliant a child is, if he/she cannot navigate the social dynamics of working and playing with others.  We need children to learn how to establish and maintain friendships as a part of their social and emotional learning (SEL), and part of that includes learning how to take responsibility for wrongdoing with a sincere apology.  


Here are the steps we use in my classroom when a child needs to apologize to another student in the classroom: 

1. Look the person in the eye the entire time.  
2. Say you are sorry: "I'm sorry . . ."
3. Say what you are apologizing for/what you did wrong: "I am sorry for_________________."
4. Say what you will do differently next time: "In the future, I will ________________."
5. Ask for forgiveness: "Will you forgive me?"

We also talk about and learn how to properly accept an apology as well.  However, there are different ways that I teach my students to respond to an apology, depending on what the apology was for.  

If the apology is being given for an action that was both deliberate and mean, I do not allow students to respond with, "That's okay."   Because mean behavior (such as saying something hurtful in anger, or deliberately pushing someone) is not okay.  Intentionally hurtful behavior is NOT okay in my classroom (or anywhere), and to say "That's okay," sends the wrong message to the student who has done so.  Instead of saying, "That's okay," I instruct students to respond with, "I accept your apology," or, "I forgive you."  

Now, on the other hand, if a student is apologizing for something that was an accident, then it is appropriate to say, "That's okay."  Mistakes happen, and accidents happen, and both are okay.  

Surprisingly, it doesn't take that long for students to grasp the nuance between each type of situation, and what responses are appropriate for each.  For some students, I still need to help them through each step of giving and receiving an apology (looking the other student in the eye is my most frequently given reminder), but most students can do it independently after the first 6-8 weeks of school.  

More posts will be coming soon on the social and emotional learning issues that I address in my classroom, and strategies for helping students to master them!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Treasure Box Alternatives: Sitting at the Teacher's Desk

Sitting at the Teacher's Desk

Let's get real for a minute.  Who ever sits at that desk, really?  Other than the occasional "Let me look for that Pinterest picture" moment, or the times you grade papers on your lunch break, no one sits there. Seriously. So why not put that space to some use during the day?

I know there's a whole movement about getting rid of your teacher desk to make way for more student space, but I'm not quite there yet. I'm willing to admit that I rarely (if ever) sit there, but I still like having a space to spread papers, toss To-Do-Later items, and display office supplies in pretty jars. So, until I jump aboard the no-desk bandwagon and get rid of my desk entirely, I'll continue use it as a student incentive. 

Teachers that I mention this idea to nearly always respond the same way: "I'd be afraid they would touch my things!"  Now, know everyone's class is different, but my experience in letting kids sit at my desk has always been positive. 

First of all, this is not a first month of school option. I make sure students know me and my expectations very well before introducing my desk as an option for students' work space.  Letting kids sit at your desk is not the time to practice defining boundaries!  (Granted, there will always be a student that you would give your car keys and ATM card to from Day 1, but I'm talking about the entire class in general.) 

I would only begin letting students sit at your desk after they have demonstrated the ability to show respect for the rules and procedures of your classroom. Once that happens, my students are in awe of how much I trust them, and even my most wild child will work extra hard to show that he/she is worthy of sitting at this place of honor. I've never once been afraid that a student will take or break something from my desk. Like I said, it's an honor they want to prove themselves worthy of, and they will most often do their very best work while sitting there! (This could also be because they are separated from other distractions, like chatty table mates.)

Depending on the size of your desk chair (last year I used a director's chair at my desk), you can often fit two kids behind your desk at once.  Two first graders on the smaller side fit easily in my director's chair. 

Once the lesson/independent work time was over, I'd tell the student(s) at my desk, "Okay, time to go back to your own desk!" And they'd quietly gather their notebook and pencil box and happily trot back to their own desk again. A single student will rarely sit at my desk for the entire day, but I will rotate different kids, allowing a handful the opportunity over the course of a morning or afternoon. 

Even if you have reservations about it, I would urge you to give it a try. Start with your most responsible student, and let him/her model respectful behavior.  But given the chance, I bet even your most troublesome student will thrive and complete his/her best work while sitting behind your desk.